The Inspector and Silence
A Van Veeteren Mystery by Håkan Nesser
Review: Detective Inspector Van Veeteren assists in the investigation of a missing girl from a church camp — some refer to it as a cult camp — in The Inspector and Silence, the fifth mystery in this series by Håkan Nesser, originally published in 1997 under the title Kommissarien och Tystnaden.
The camp — "some kind of confirmation jamboree" — is called Pure Life and is run by a "priest" named Oscar Yellinek. An unidentified caller has reported a girl from the camp missing, prompting a visit by Van Veeteren. At first Yellinek refuses to confirm or deny that any of the girls are missing and to allow him to speak to any of them, but does permit him to interview his staff of counselors, though nothing much comes of it. But, as one of his detectives says, "There was really only one foolproof method of kick-starting an investigation that had come to a dead end; drink a pint of whisky and four beers, and when you've gone to bed it's guaranteed that within twenty minutes the phone will ring and you'll be saddled with another corpse." Indeed, the body of a young girl, raped and strangled, has been found.
At its core, The Inspector and Silence is an old-fashioned whodunit-style crime novel, a nicely crafted mystery with a minimum of high technology and forensics. At the end of the day, it is solid police work, feet on the ground, that solves the crime. Though clearly an anonymous tipster helps advance the investigation in meaningful, if rather abstract, ways. DI Van Veeteren seems to fancy himself along the lines of a Nordic Nero Wolfe, where his mood is only as good as his last meal. There's nothing wrong with this characterization in and of itself, but whereas Nero Wolfe's pompousness comes across as elegant and refined, Van Veeteren's comes across more as aloof and autocratic. True, he's nearing retirement and no doubt looks forward to days of wine and roses, but when compared to the brutality of the crimes he's investigating, his attitude seems a bit callous at times. But this could simply be a translation issue.
Speaking of which, though one would like to believe that the crime and the characters are what keeps one's attention, it's easy to be distracted by the occasional narrative quirk. There is, for example, an odd mix of metric and non-metric units used, and though the action takes place in Sweden, somewhat inexplicably the currency of choice seems to be Dutch Guilder, not Swedish Krona. These are minor points, to be sure — and are taken from an ARC of the book, not the final published copy — but details are often what separates good mysteries from very good ones, and thus one has to wonder what else here may have been "lost in translation", as it were.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided an ARC of The Inspector and Silence for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Pantheon (Hardcover), August 2012
ISBN-13: 9780307906861; ISBN-10: 0307906868
Location(s) referenced in The Inspector and Silence: Sweden
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The Inspector and Silence by Håkan Nesser — A Van Veeteren Mystery
Publication Date: June 2011
List Price: $24.95