The Strangler's Honeymoon by Håkan Nesser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
'Desperately lonely, sixteen-year-old Monica Kammerle has little idea of what she is getting herself into when she begins an affair with her mother’s latest partner; the sophisticated Benjamin Kerran . . . Months later, when a woman’s strangled body is found decomposing in her flat, the Maardam police must discover who has committed this terrible crime. It isn’t long before they realise the perpetrator may have killed before – and is likely to do so again. Meanwhile former Chief Inspector Van Veeteren finds himself drawn into the mystery when a priest, who has learned dreadful secrets, appeals to him for help. But when the priest falls beneath the wheels of a train and the police find more dead ends than leads, it seems Van Veeteren will have to come up with a new approach to unearth this dark serial killer, before he chooses his next victim . . '
This novel was originally written in Swedish and translated into English by Laurie Thompson and for me it lost a lot of fluidity in the process. The humour didn't translate well and unnecessary breaks in sentences made it a challenging read overall. I constantly had to think what the writer meant as the translation in some parts was not clear which did impact on my enjoyment of the book.
I kept reading as there was such a good degree of suspense and intrigue that I wanted to find out more about this murderer and who it was. I believe the author could have taken far less pages to get to the point but believe this was intentional in order to slowly build up suspense and to convey the long process of solving crimes of this nature.
The characters were all believable and necessary to the plot; once I got to grips with the translation I even enjoyed the humour that Nesser managed to bring through the detectives on the case and the retired Van Veeteren. I had not read anything by this author before and although I learnt that this was one of a series of books involving Van Veetern it was not necessary to have read any of his other novels in order to enjoy or understand this one.
The opening starts with a murder in Greece then switches back to Sweden in the small town of Maardam where a lonely and damaged 16 year old girl begins a relationship with her mother's lover. From here were are introduced to other characters as the novel builds and the storyline develops.
The character of Van Veeteren the retired police chief is superb, he has now bought an antique bookshop and after a visit from a priest troubled by a confession he finds himself unable to resist the temptation of becoming involved in the mystery that unfolds. Nesser seems to have a unique ability to be able to connect the reader with his characters in such a gentle way that it seems the characters are familiar from the start. Van Veeteran works on a combination of intuition and experience, he is highly respected by his former colleagues and as they try to solve the crime the reader is doing so at the same pace with all the information they have and all the clues (in this case not many) so that when the novel is concluded the reader gets a real sense of achievement as well as having had a good read.
This had a nice twist to the story that wasn't predictable and made the ending seem justifiable and allowed one character to turn the tables on the killer.
I would have given this novel a 5 star rating had it not been for the 'lost in translation' issues so I have given this a 4.5 star rating, having said this I would possibly attempt another Nesser novel if only to revisit the wonderful Van Veetern and his colleagues - also to find out if he was able to 'retire' or not!
I would like to thank the publisher for sending me this copy in exchange for a honest review.