Monday, March 19, 2007

More reasons to like Borkmann's Point

1) The author, Håkan Nesser, has a sharp eye for the misdeeds of television reporters:

"Well, that was that," said the chief of police, flopping back onto the leather sofa. "I have to say I prefer the newspaper boys."

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?"
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:

"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.

"`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."
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.

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.


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

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

My beloved Lisa Marklund is not as bleak as Nessar, but as sharp -- maybe you should give her a try? Or maybe, she is a bit too much of a "women's author"? She really has the newspaper scene sussed though -- why not try "Paradise" sometime? (As usual with the Scandinavians, she's translated out of order)

March 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're thinking right along with me. I bought Nesser's The Return yesterday at a Borders. (If I'm desperate enough to enter a Borders, you know I must really want the book.) While there, I looked for Liza Marklund, but the store had nothing of hers.

I've been thinking about her for a while, both because of the newspaper background to her books and because she seems to get mentioned often in the company of writers I enjoy. Whether or not she's a "women's author," I have no idea.

It's funny you should mention bleakness in connection with her and Nesser, though, because I don't find Nesser bleak at all. In fact, I very much enjoy his sly and deadpan wit.

My word verification code for this post is nvelkjup, by the way, which sounds like a fictional town in a Nesser novel.

March 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paradise is on the way, expected arrival in 5 to 7 business days. I read one of Liza Marklund's scenes set in a busy and serious newsroom. I used to work in one!

March 21, 2007  
Blogger Karen (Euro Crime) said...

Liza Marklund's books are not so much translated out of order as written out of order :-).

Eg. "Studio Sex is the second book about the heroine, Annika Bengtzon. The story is set eight years prior to the events in The Bomber." from - .The books tab tells you when the books took place. The FAQ (I think) used to answer the question as to why the books weren't written in a nice chronological way :-), but currently it's empty.

March 21, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for that link. It may help once I start reading the books. As for the mystery of the missing FAQ, just because a question is frequently asked does not mean it's frequently answered.

I think reading books in series order is overrated. I've always read my favorite series in the order in which I could obtain the books. I chose Paradise because I liked its excerpt better than those of the other books I was able to read. If an author has to depend on series order to hold readers' interest, he or she is probably a poor or opportunistic writer.

March 21, 2007  

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