'If the shit hits the fan, you can always get in touch with VV instead,' Malijsen explained. 'He's an old colleague of mine, and owes me a favour.'
When during the heat of a sweltering summer an anonymous woman caller telephones Acting Chief of Police Kluuge informing him that a girl is missing from the summer camp of the strange religious sect, The Pure Life, he sends for Chief Inspector Van Veeteren.
Van Veeteren is contemplating retirement, a position in an antiquarian bookshop, and an upcoming holiday in Crete, by chance in the same hotel as a chestnut haired woman from an earlier case. But the 'crackpot' Maljisen did save his life so he travels to Sorbinowo, a lake town deep in the forest, to investigate where he discovers that Oscar Yellinek, the priest who leads the sect, his three adult women disciples, and the twelve young girls attending the summer camp are all very uncooperative.
Then a girl's body is found in the woods, raped and strangled, and Oscar Yellinek has disappeared.
A media frenzy ensues but the women and girls of the Pure Life sect remain obstinately silent.
The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser is virtually a thesis on Van Veeteren's disillusionment with his job. Does he stay in the police seeing more bodies, dealing with more murderers and criminals, or does he retire to a life of books, drinking, eating, playing chess and listening to Faure and Pergolesi?
And if this sounds depressing the story's wit and ironic humour makes it a far less gloomy read than might be supposed from the subject matter.
The cameo appearances of interesting characters such as elderly newspaper editor Andrej Prezebuda, and the wooden legged cop Suijderbeck, as well as the accounts of Van Veeteren's idiosyncratic detection strategies make this a great read.
Red wine, he decided instead. It was only eleven in the morning, but not a minute too soon for a glass and a cigarette.
Hakan Nesser brilliantly captures the slowness, the frustrations, the boredom and false trails that can constitute a murder investigation.
The Van Veeteren books are a very intelligent police procedural series, and I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series out later this year.
'We have nothing to do with the investigation,' Reinhart explained. ' We've come here to track down an ancient detective chief inspector who's disappeared.'
'I'm on his trail,' said Van Veeteren.