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Woman with Birthmark
by Hakan Nesser

Release Date: 1st May 2009
Publisher: Pan Macmillian
ISBN: 978 0 3339 8987 6
RRP: £16.99

Average Customer Rating: 
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Scandinavian police thriller with no frills...

Woman with Birthmark is the fourth in the Inspector Van Veeteren series; I mention this for the benefit of those who have never heard of Håkan Nesser, nor his rather morose and grumpy Van Veeteren character – and because there is a certain presupposition that you already know everything about everyone already, with the obvious exception of the killer and her victims.

The killer is no mystery; we are introduced to her from the start, albeit vaguely. We know that her mother’s parting words pleading for her to “do something” play on her mind to endless distraction. We know they she interprets her mother’s words as a command to seek revenge; something she takes up with considerable relish. Cold, calculating and disturbingly seeming to revel in her new occupation as murderess. Van Veeteren is implacable and stalwart in his pursuit of the truth and yet the story itself stumbles along with a distinct lack of finesse and direction; much of the time being preoccupied with either the poor wintry conditions, the sniffles and the absence of any real leads.

That Woman with Birthmark is a translation is immediately apparent and not just because its author is clearly foreign. The dialogue is stilted and has a curiously wooden affectation that may be deliberate, but I suspect not. The action, however, is deliberately delivered in short static moments and the motivation behind the murders themselves is intriguing. Nesser does manage to whip up some degree of suspense and the intentional creation of a sympathetic murderess is cleverly done; but overall, I simply couldn’t get past the somewhat rudimentary language. For those looking for a crime novel with minimal fuss, unflappable characters and solemn atmosphere, then Nesser delivers.

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