Sunday, 20 July 2014
Kim's Review : The Weeping Girl
After Stieg Larsson & Henning Mankell, I'm happy to have finally read my first Hakan Nesser - another master of the Swedish Crime Ficton genre and with a female lead detective for a pleasant change.
However, Ewa Moreno is not a recurring lead in his books. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren and Inspector Barbarotti are his 2 main leads (much like Agatha Christie's - Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple).
Ewa Moreno is Chief Inspector Van Veeteren’s protégé and as far as I know, The Weeping Girl is the only novel in which she is the main character. Although it is said that, the Van Veeteren series follows the murder cases investigated by Chief Inspector Van Veeteren – (later retired) – and his two crime squad protégés, Münster and Moreno. I will have to read more of his novels before I can say with any certainty how prominent her role is in the rest of the series.
The Van Veeteren series takes place in Maardam, a fictitious city in a made-up country that could be anywhere in northern Europe. But most of "The Weeping Girl" takes place in Lejnice around 120km away from Maardam, where Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno is headed for her one month Summer Holiday. Just before she sets off, her boss Chief Inspector Reinhart saddles her with the responsibility of interviewing Lampe-Lerman a career criminal and police informant who is in custody at Lejnice and who has said that he will only confess and give up names to Inspector Moreno.
On the train to Lejnice, a young teenager - Mikaela Lijphart - sits across her while weeping silently. The Investigator and concern in Moreno has her initiate a conversation with Mikaela who reveals that she is on her way to Lejnice to meet her father whom she has never known, who lives in a psychiatric facility. Her mother revealed his name and existence to her, just the day before on her 18th birthday as she was now "old enough to know"
When Moreno is at the Lejnice station on one of her visits to Lampe-Lerman, she encounters Mikaela's frantic mother who has come to the station to declare her daughter missing as she has not been heard from for a couple of days.
A few days later another dead body is found buried on the beach. This is too much excitement for the sleepy seaside town of Lejnice and Detectives from a neighbouring town are called in to help with the murder. A few days later, Mikaela's father himself goes missing.
Slowly the facts come out that Mikaela's father was accused of impregnating a 16 year old student - Winnie Maas - and then murdering her, which was when he lost his mind and had hence been in the facility for 16 years.
Detective Moreno finds herself pursuing this case, even though she is on holiday, because she is concerned for Mikaela and she finds help in likely and unlikely places.
The story is very well told, it keeps you completely hooked and I think kudos also have to be given to the Swedish translator - Laurie Thompson who has done a great job in keeping the reader hooked. It isn't a fast paced novel, but it moves forward steadily and keeps the reader engaged.
Moreno's thoughts and concerns in life are very different from what a British or an American female detectives would be and that gives a unique perspective into her mind and a bit of an idea of the Scandinavian way of life.
I really loved Moreno's insight into her own deductive skills, where she feels something in her brain when things start to fit together. She is a much more approachable and "normal/human" Detective than Detective Sarah Linden of The Killing - the American TV series, based on the Danish TV series - Forbrydelsen or Agent Carrie Mathison of Homeland who come across as disturbed and high strung.
I'd definitely like to read more of Hakan Nesser's work and will try to get my hands on as many of them as I can.
As far as I know, all 10 Van Veeteren books have been translated into English, but none of the Inspector Barbarotti series have. The Van Veeteren books have also been turned into a series of TV movies, much like Henning Mankell's Inspector Wallander series.
Rating : 4 / 5