Nesser, Hakan - 'The Mind's Eye' (translated by Laurie Thompson)
I've spent about a month away from Scandinavian crime fiction, reading a wide range of alternatives, but THE MIND'S EYE reminds me from page one of all the reasons why I love the best exponents of the genre from this geographical region. The plot is simple yet powerful; elemental themes are involved; there is lots of droll humour and neat touches; the solution is satisfying; and one is left hoping for more.
THE MIND'S EYE was written before the other two Hakan Nesser books I've read, BORKMANN'S POINT and THE RETURN, and I wish I had read it first, as it reveals not much but sufficient about Van Veerten's domestic life to provide context for the subsequent books in the series.
As the three-act tragi-comedy that is THE MIND'S EYE opens, Janek Mitter awakens from a drunken stupor and can't immediately remember who he is. When he sorts it out in his mind, he discovers his wife dead in the bath. He's rapidly arrested and tried for her murder, in a drolly superb court case that had me laughing out loud on several occasions.
All does not end well for Mitter, however, who is convicted of the crime and incarcerated in a secure mental hospital. Van Veerten, the head of the local police, is uneasy about the resolution of the case, but before he can put a definite name to his doubts, another tragedy happens. Eventually, the detective realises that the only way he can solve the crime is by digging back into the victim's past. On the way, he and his colleagues encounter a number of citizens of varying degrees of respectability and culpability, each vignette being telling, humorous or sadly pathetic in its own right.
Scandinavian crime fiction as a genre seems to excel at the good, simple story, well-told and with classical underpinnings, echoing ancient tragedies and sagas. THE MIND'S EYE is no exception. I was absorbed from start to finish, and cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are lucky, it will be the first book by this author that you have encountered, in which case you can read the rest of his output, or at least some of it, in the order in which it was written.
Read another review of THE MIND'S EYE.
Maxine Clarke, England