Over the past couple of years I have read a fair number of Scandanavian thriller/mystery/detective/police procedurals and just about every one of them has been excellecnt. I’ve also watched several on TV – Wallender and The Killing spring to mind – which were excellent. I bought the DVD set of the first series of The Killing and got the US remake by mistake, and even it was never less than riveting.
But I’m beginning to wonder if all you need is a Scandanavian name (I’m thinking of changing the spelling of my own) and a detective manuscript to be beyond the reach of mere mortals. As a mere mortal and an innocent at heart I must point and shout – Hakan Nesser’s got no clothes, metaphorically speaking of course.
I picked up a novel entitled The Inspector and Silence by the aforementioned Hakan Nesser, looking fo nothing more than a good read. The Sunday Times is quoted on the cover of the edition I read: ‘Nesser is being compared with Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson.’ I wonder if this is one of those creative uses of qoutes that should be followed by… Something like – ‘compared to Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson… BY HIS MOTHER.’
On the back cover Colin Dexter is quoted: ‘Destined for a place amongst the great European detectives.’ I have to wonder, having read The Inspector and Silence if the quote refers to another book or if Dexter is a mate or simply caved to pressure from a common publisher (Pan in the UK) to blurb a book he didn’t read – hey virgins, it happens. A writer of my acquaintance asked a well-known novelist of his brief acquaintance for a blurb for his first novel. By return he was sent a selection of quotes to choose from – for a book the novelist had never seen. Requests for names should be submitted in writing on the back of a fifty euro note.
At the heart of my criticism is the fact that the ‘hero’ of The Inspector and Silence, one Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, is, for me, thoroughly dislikeable. Mostly he’s just lazy and selfish – attributes most of us have but try to overcome but that he seems to indulge – and if that was all I’d say it was an interesting spin on the usual alcoholic divorcee that tends to feature in the genre – but he’s also bland and boring – not the sort of guy you want to accompany you through 433 pages of novel.
And the book could do with a decent editor. There were too many instances of sentences breaking in places alien to English – certainly proper English like wot I speak. On top of that were repeated, annoying instances where the good Inspector reflects that what’s currently happening is like something out of a detective novel! Gimme a break. I thought that was the sort of thing that got knocked out of you in pre-school.
Perhaps Hakan Nesser’s other books are really good. Perhaps he’s simply ‘not my cup of tea’. Perhaps it’s just the blurbs that really offende me. However, I really don’t think that The Inspector and Silence is a good novel and I don’t think, based upon this one novel I must emphasize, Hakan Nesser deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Henning Mankell or Stieg Larsson.