Book review: The Strangler’s Honeymoon by Håkan Nesser

A good crime thriller is so much more than the sum of its scary killers and grisly, gruesome murders.

By Pam Norfolk
Friday, 4th October 2013, 10:00 am
The Stranglers Honeymoon by Håkan Nesser
The Stranglers Honeymoon by Håkan Nesser

And you can always rely on Håkan Nesser to mitigate all that regulation ‘nastiness’ with a devilishly clever and unpredictable plotline to confound his readers and confirm his status as one of Sweden’s best and most popular crime writers.

Nesser’s gripping Inspector Van Veeteren Mysteries have picked up a fistful awards and the ninth in the series serves up an intriguing, atmospheric thriller brimming with tension, startlingly real characters, trademark nuggets of dry humour and a murderer who plumbs the depths of human darkness.

The renowned Chief Inspector Van Veeteren might now be ‘partially retired’ and working in an antiquarian bookshop but his wisdom and experience are still a guiding light for Maardam Police’s resourceful, pragmatic, love-shy Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno.

Sixteen-year-old Monica Kammerle lives in a drab flat with her manic depressive mother who spends much of her life lying under a blanket on the sofa and threatening to kill herself.

It’s four years since Monica’s beloved father died in a car accident and her life is ‘loneliness with a capital L’ so when her mother’s handsome, sophisticated lover Benjamin Kerran comes into both their lives, it seems that things are on the up.

But when Benjamin becomes over friendly to vulnerable Monica and they launch into an illicit affair, she has little idea of what she is getting herself into until the dynamics of their relationship change and the danger signs become overwhelmingly clear.

Months later, a woman’s strangled body is found and Ewa and the Maardam police must discover who has committed this terrible crime. It isn’t long before they discover that the killer may have struck before and is likely to do so again.

Meanwhile Van Veeteren finds himself drawn into the hunt when a local priest, who has learned disturbing, confidential secrets and is tussling with his vow of silence, appeals to him for help.

But before the priest can disclose the information to Van Veeteren, he mysteriously falls beneath the wheels of a train and the police find more dead-ends than leads.

It seems the veteran detective will have to come up with a new approach to unearth this terrifying killer… before he chooses his next victim.

Nesser’s easy, uncomplicated and yet compelling writing style is ideally suited to the thriller genre, allowing the story to unfold with realistic twists and turns, a complex interplay of plot and character and a satisfying sprinkling of subtle clues.

Dark, uncompromising and psychologically astute, The Strangler’s Honeymoon sees the king of cold-blooded murder on top form.

(Mantle, hardback, £16.99)