The Strangler’s Honeymoon
The 9th book in Nesser’s Van Veeteren Series.
Desperately lonely, sixteen-year-old Monica Kammerle has little idea of what she is getting herself into when she begins an affair with her mother’s latest partner; the sophisticated Benjamin Kerran . . . Months later, when a woman’s strangled body is found, the Maardam police must discover who has committed this terrible crime. It isn’t long before they realise the perpetrator may have killed before – and is likely to do so again. Meanwhile former Chief Inspector Van Veeteren finds himself drawn into the mystery when a priest, who has learned dreadful secrets, appeals to him for help. But when the priest falls beneath the wheels of a train and the police find more dead-ends than leads, it seems Van Veeteren will have to come up with a new approach to unearth this dark serial killer. Before he chooses his next victim . . .
Unfortunately Van Veeteren, now running his antiquarian bookshop, has a dental appointment for a broken tooth [ah those problems with dentistry!] and is leaving the next day on a three week holiday with his girl friend, Ulrike. He does not have time to listen to to the priest, and when on his return home he hears that Gassel has fallen under a train he is suspicious. When Martina Kammerle’s body is decomposing under her bed Van Veeteren’s old colleagues investigate even questioning the Chief Inspector himself.The Strangler’s Honeymoon is the ninth book in the Van Veeteren series and certainly one of the best. Sometimes you come across a book that is 600+pages long and yet you read it as speedily a 120 page novella. A novel that makes you actually glad you read crime fiction. A book with appealing characters, a compelling plot, some delicious wit and humour, a few surprises and despite being originally published as long ago as 2001 in Swedish with the intriguing title Svalan, Katten, Rosen, Doden, a lot of up to date social commentary about western societies.
Nesser is one of the few authors who can successfully blend dry humour and the darker side of life in the same story. The reader is taken through the story from the slightly different perspectives of the investigating team; Rheinhart, Munster, Ewa Moreno and Rooth, with more interventions from Van Veeteren in his private investigator role than in the last few books. The personal lives of the team are varied and interesting, and we also get glimpses into the psychotic mind and the past history of the perpetrator; something I don’t usually like but it works rather well in The Strangler’s Honeymoon. The meticulous investigation goes on as those with any information or worries about missing friends are interviewed, and Moreno learns some fascinating facts of life.
There are references to some of the most serious of modern society’s unsolved problems; neglect, loneliness, child abuse, sexual deviance, bullying, alienation, women’s vulnerability and the difficult search to find a sex partner who isn’t a psychopath.
Håkan Nesser ‘s Maardam is a city with smart restaurants and smart women advertising for lovers, but is also a city where a body can lie undiscovered for a month. Set in an anonymous country in Northern Europe, where Van Veeteren interestingly claims not to understand Swedish, this is one of my favourite crime series and one that has maintained a uniformly high standard. I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.
Review by Norman Price, CRIME SCRAPS REVIEW
About Håkan Nesser:
Håkan Nesser is a Swedish author and teacher who has written a number of successful crime fiction novels. He has won Best Swedish Crime Novel Award three times, and his novel Carambole won the Glass Key award in 2000. His books have been translated from Swedish into numerous languages.
Håkan Nesser was born and grew up in Kumla, and has lived most of his adult life in Uppsala. His first novel was published in 1988, but he worked as a teacher until 1998 when he became a full-time author. In August, 2006, Håkan Nesser and his wife Elke moved to Greenwich Village in New York.
A man, who is not identified, strangles his wife on a Greek Island and disposes of her body down a ravine. In Maardam a lonely 16 year old Monica Kammerle, who is unpopular at school, begins an affair with her mother lover. When Monica confides in Pastor Gassel, a priest with his own problems, he promises not to go to the police, but takes his concerns to retired Chief Inspector Van Veeteren.