by Bruce TierneyMarch, 2006
Mystery of the month
Kudos to Swedish author Hakan Nesser for winning the Tip of the Ice Pick Award this month (and likely for the year, should we do a yearly award). Nesser's name looked familiar to me when I first saw the advance reader's copy of Borkmann's Point, but I couldn't quite remember why. After a bit of cogitation, I remembered that a German friend, a fellow mystery aficionado, had mentioned liking Nesser quite a lot. At the time, no English translations were to be found. My German (not to mention my Swedish!) being basically nonexistent, I shelved the notion of reading Nesser, and was thus happily surprised to find his first work translated into English. In the author's home country, Borkmann's Point received the Swedish Crime Writers' Academy Prize for best novel in 1994. Finally, a dozen years later, Nesser appears poised to receive the fame (and, with any luck, fortune) that comes with a U.S. bestseller. As the book opens, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren ( VV to his subordinates, although they would never call him that to his face) is enjoying the final days of a coastal vacation. His holiday is interrupted by a call from his boss requesting that he cut short his time off to investigate an ax murder in a nearby resort town. Ax murders are big news even in the jaded, crime-ridden US of A, but in this remote corner of Sweden, there is no precedent . . . well, one precedent, because this is the second murder utilizing the same weapon in the space of two months. Nesser's pacing is superb, akin to the best from Ian Rankin or Ruth Rendell. Van Veeteren is, as cops go, a Renaissance man: he savors a well roasted leg of lamb, the complexity of a 1971 St. Emilion, and the finer points of the Nimzo-Indian defense in a good game of chess. Twists and turns abound, and the outcome will be a surprise even to seasoned mystery readers. Hakan Nesser is a household name throughout Europe. If the fates are kind to us, Borkmann's Point will be a major success here in the U.S., and then Nesser's other novels will be translated into English as well. I, for one, can't wait!