Review: Hakan Nesser – The Strangler’s Honeymoon

20131121-081340.jpgI had hoped to read and review this book before now as Nesser is one of my favourite writers. However it was pushed down the pile until last week when I finally managed to finish what turned out to be one of the writer’s best books, not least because of the welcome reappearance of Maardam police inspector Van Veeteren.

Sixteen year old Monica Kammerle has an affair with he mother’s boyfriend and little realises that she is consorting with a killer who is unable to deal with rejection. When her mother’s body is found under the bed of their apartment, police are desperate to track down the missing Monica, convinced that the killer has struck again. Van Veeteren is drawn into the case when he promises to help a priest who is later killed without revealing the source of his concern.

We are now reaching the end of the series with one book left to go. The novels have been a delight to read and although some have been better than others, the series is distinguished by the deceptive complexity of the plots and the quality of the writing. Nesser also has the ability to deliver a creepy read without resorting to cheap gimmicks, relying instead on a slow build up of tension that leaves the reader in a state of satisfying disorientation.

The Strangler’s Honeymoon opens with a brief but brutal killing on a Greek island. It’s textbook Nesser. We have encountered the killer from the off and now we are waiting to see how the plot unfolds. Although we are inside the killer’s mind, his place in society and name are hidden from both the police and reader until the final section. In many ways it is this part that is the most thrilling. All has been revealed but Van Veeteren embarks on a personal mission to unsettle and unmask the killer that concludes, where it began, back in Greece.

The vulnerability of women has been a continuing theme in Nesser’s work and it is explored further here, although naturally, not everything is as it seems. As he has shown before, women can be both the abusers and the abused and the difference is sometimes indistinguishable.

Nesser has pulled off the trick of wiring a novel that, ninth in the series, satisfies all the requirements of devotees of his books but at the same time could be picked up and read by a reader new to his work. It’s a fitting penultimate book to the series and it’s just a case of now waiting until next year for the final instalment, The G File.

Thanks to Mantle for my copy of the novel.