The Return by Håkan Nesser

return nesserThe Return by Håkan Nesser, translated by Laurie Thompson
Pantheon Books, 2007
Originally published as Återkomsten in 1995
Source: library e-book

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.

Other reviews of The Return can be found at Eurocrime and Mystery Mile.

I have also reviewed the two previous books in the Inspector Van Veeteren series:

Mind’s Eye
Borkmann’s Point

14 thoughts on “The Return by Håkan Nesser

  1. Rebecca – I’m so glad you’re enjoying the Van Veeteren series. You’re right that this one is a little more contemplative, but I still liked it. But then, I’m a Nesser fan too. And I do hope you’ll get the chance to read some Josephine Tey soon. I think her Alan Grant series is very good.

  2. Thanks for flagging this novel up, Rebecca. It’s ages since I last read any Nesser and am interested in ‘vulnerable’ detectives who are ill or in hospital. Another example is Barlach in the Friedrich Duerrenmatt’s crime fiction. On to my TBR it goes…

  3. Isn’t it interesting how once you hear about something, you keep on hearing about it! I haven’t read Josephine Tey for years but just finished “An Expert in Murder” by Nicola Upson, which has Josephine Tey as the protaganist. An enjoyable historical mystery, with lots of true bits from the 1930s era in which the story is set. I’ve just posted a review on my blog.

  4. I really liked this review. I enjoyed The Return when I read it a couple of years ago. The tone and pace of the Van Veeteren novels is my sort of crime novel! Your post has made me want to go back and read more in the series!

    • I’d love to catch up with this series too, but I’m finding that the reading challenges I’ve joined this year are pulling me in other directions. Someday soon!

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