Thursday, September 10, 2009


Those people who claim Scandinavian crime fiction is uniformly dull introspective and miserable have never read Hakan Nesser.
Maybe I just like the same kind of ironic deadpan humour as this Swedish writer but Woman with Birthmark has had me laughing out loud.
I wonder if all of Hakan's readers see the really funny side of his books or am I in a minority after all this is a serious novel is about a serial killer.

"OK," said Rheinhart eventually. "There's just one thing I want to know. Who the hell did it?"
"A madman ," said Rooth. "somebody who wanted to test his Berenger and noticed the lights were on in the house."

Later Van Veeteren has PC Klaarentoft, the force's most skilled photographer, taking photographs at the first victim's funeral on the theory that the murderer might be present.

Another kind of perversion, of course, and Klaarentoft had evidently not seen the film. He traipsed around between the graves, snapping away to his heart's content, totally ignoring Van Veeteren's instruction to be as unobtrusive as possible.
The fact that he managed to take no less than twelve pictures of the clergyman conducting the ceremony suggested he might not have grasped the point of his contribution.

Photograph of Maxine Clarke of Petrona and Hakan Nesser in a more serious moment at Crime Fest 2009.


Blogger Dorte H said...

"I wonder if all of Hakan's readers see the really funny side of his books or am I in a minority ..."

If that is so, at least we are two :D

1:23 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

That's good Dorte I felt a bit embarrassed laughing when people are getting killed.
Hakan spoke at Crime Fest about making his first few killers too sympathetic and that the later killers were evil. I only hope I can live long enough to see all his Van Veeteren's and Babarotti's translated into English.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

With you entirely, Norman. There is a lovely wryness to be found in Nesser's writing.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

Me too, Norman. One can but hope to live that long (they are being translated at a rather slow rate; probably necessary but a bit alarming for us oldies).

Yes, we do look very serious in that picture!

I recently read this book (on holiday) and like you, although it is a tragic and bleak novel, found myself laughing out loud at the irascible Van Veerteren and the author's constant dryly hilarious phrases.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the Edinburgh Book Festival. His wry sense of humour was clearly evident. Worth mentioning that his talk at CrimeFest earlier this year is available as an MP3

3:11 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I was also surprised to find myself laughing, or at least smiling wryly, when reading Karin Alvtegen's Shame recently. Not the sort of book you would instantly think of, in terms of humour. However she takes a similar wry, but empathetic, look at human fallibilities - particularly the central character.

3:15 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Tim I haven't read Sham,e but from Shadow and Betrayal I would find it difficult to raise a smirk at Alvtegen's work. But it does show that even the most depressing of Swedish writers can can be humorous in certain circumstances.

Maxine "us oldies"! You are definitely not in my age group. I suspect my elder step daughter 42 is much closer in age to you than I am.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, you are not alone in finding bits of Nesser amusing.

There's this, from Borkman's Point:

"It was past eleven before the kids finally went to bed. They opened a bottle of wine and put on a Mostakis tape, and after several failed attempts, they finally managed to get a fire going. They spread the mattress out on the floor and undressed each other.

"`We'll wake them up,' said Münster .

"`No, we won't,' said Synn. She stroked his back and crept down under the blankets. `I put a bit of a sleeping pill into their hot chocolate.'

"`Sleeping pill?' he thundered, trying to sound outraged.

"`Only a little bit. Won't do them any lasting harm. Come here!'

"`OK,' said Münster, and restored relations with his wife."

Or the school outing at the beginning of The Return.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

10:23 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter very droll and I might use that technique with our slightly older children. ;0)
Certainly Woman with Birthmark was a new twist on the serial killer theme when it was written in 1996.
I read somewhere that Philadelphia was among the best 10 places in the US to retire, do you endorse that opinion.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wouldn't know; my departure from my current job will very likely happen before I reach retirement age. There do seem to be a lot of older people in the city, and many hositals, which might mean something.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

5:18 PM  

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