I am a huge Håkan Nesser fan, and I know I’m just catching up with the rest of the world since his books weren’t translated into English until 2006– and U.S. publication dates lag behind the U.K. ones. Why? Each book feels a little different, which is quite a feat for a series. It’s obvious that Nesser loves his characters because they are well-rounded people too.
The Return feels different than Mind’s Eye and Borkmann’s Point because of the set-up: in The Return, Van Veeteren is in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery for the bulk of the investigation, a premise he borrowed from Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time. (I keep coming across Tey’s name in the last week or so, which I’m taking as a sign that I should pick up one of her books soon). The murder victim is Leopold Verhaven, a disgraced middle distance runner who dies just after being released from prison after serving his second twelve-year murder sentence, those murders being nearly twenty years apart. Nesser gets to play with time in this book because the investigation encompasses all three murders over a significant period of time. The non-linear story is definitely different than the earlier books in the series.
The Return is also a reflective book because Van Veeteren is grappling with mortality as he faces cancer surgery. The murder victim being his age also gets him thinking about his life. It’s not an entirely dour book about murder and mortality though: Van Veeteren is still an eccentric investigator, and there are jokes sprinkled throughout the story. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series in the coming months.
I have also reviewed the two previous books in the Inspector Van Veeteren series: