"Well, that was that," said the chief of police, flopping back onto the leather sofa. "I have to say I prefer the newspaper boys."2) Nesser includes an amusing flip on the theme of detective with troubled family life. The officer involved has been called out of town, worked hard on a series of a murder cases, and come close to making a pass at (or being seduced by) an attractive female colleague. And then his wife and children take a house nearby so they can be with him:
Van Veeteren agreed.
"Those well-oiled talking heads on TV make me vomit; they really do. Do you have a lot to do with that crowd?"
"It was past eleven before the kids finally went to bed. They opened a bottle of wine and put on a Mostakis tape, and after several failed attempts, they finally managed to get a fire going. They spread the mattress out on the floor and undressed each other.That's the entire scene, and and it's fair representation of Nesser's technique: short scenes, laconic reactions, scenes that rely heavily on dialogue.
"`We'll wake them up,' said Münster .
"`No, we won't,' said Synn. She stroked his back and crept down under the blankets. `I put a bit of a sleeping pill into their hot chocolate.'
"`Sleeping pill?' he thundered, trying to sound outraged.
"`Only a little bit. Won't do them any lasting harm. Come here!'
"`OK,' said Münster, and restored relations with his wife."
3) Nesser permeates the narrative with references to the doubts large and small that plague dedicated officers during an urgent investigation:
"Well?" said Münster, feeling as if he'd just missed the point of a long and complicated joke.or
He kicked off his shoes and wiggled his toes rather cautiously, as if he ere uncertain whether or not they were still there.These are trivial examples and deliberately so. Other characters question the reality of their observations or contemplate the meaning of death, but it is the tiny incidents, the little doubts, that create the novel's distinctive texture. Small doubts echo larger ones. Everyone, sharp and dull alike, moves in a kind of fog that clouds all certainties -- and somehow makes the characters all the more human.
A character makes passing reference to houses with Hanseatic gables. This adds northern Germany to the list of settings evoked but never named. Others include the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The lack of a named setting added to the delight for me, to the sense of fun. Perhaps it contributed as well to that enjoyable sense of doubt mentioned above.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007