Review: The Mind’s Eye by Håkan Nesser

I was lucky enough to win a copy of Woman with Birthmark by Håkan Nesser from the host of the Scandinavian Reading Challenge and was just about to read it as book 3 for the challenge when I read this review of The Mind’s Eye which is the first book in Nesser’s series. I decided instead I’d take advantage of my tardiness in finding this author by reading the series in the order written rather than the order they’ve been translated into English.

Schoolteacher Janek Mitter wakes up with a hell of a hangover one morning and discovers the body of his wife in the bathtub. While it’s clear she has been murdered the question that neither police nor Mitter can answer is whether or not he was the one who killed her. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Mitter is tried, convicted and confined to an asylum for the mentally ill but the case is not yet finished and events cause the police to investigate further.

By reputation Scandinavians are cold and dour but, if their crime fiction is anything to go by, this is as untrue a stereotype as any other because this book really is very funny. Most of the humour comes with the dialogue between Inspector Van Veeteren and his police colleagues though Nesser even finds the funny in Mitter’s dreadful situation. Translator Laurie Thompson has once again done a great job of creating a very readable book which relies quite heavily on verbal jousting for its lighter moments.

Van Veeteren is a terrifically well-rounded character who gets depressed by the weather, plays badminton grudgingly and is, nineteen times out of twenty, very sure of his own ability to judge a person’s guilt or innocence by little more than the tilt of their head. His droll observations and quirks provide much of the humour in the book but he’s also intelligent and caring in a ‘blokey’ kind of way and I look forward to reading more of his adventures.

The book felt a little awkward at the outset with its court scenes at the beginning followed by a police investigation but turning the procedural upside down in this way worked well in the end. The uncovering of Mitter’s wife’s past is really done quite cleverly and offered a good deal of credible tension towards the climax of the book. I shall definitely be looking for book two in this series sooner rather than later.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating 4/5

Translator Laurie Thompson; Publisher Pantheon Books [this translation 2008, originally 1993]; ISBN 9780330492782; Length 280 pages

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The Mind’s Eye has been reviewed just about everywhere including at Crime Scraps, Euro Crime (Karen), Euro Crime (Maxine), Kittling Books and The Game is Afoot

This entry was posted in book review, Hakan Nesser, Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2010, Sweden. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Review: The Mind’s Eye by Håkan Nesser

  1. Bernadette – Thanks for this excellent review. It’s not easy to integrate humor into a book, and even more difficult to translate that humor. That’s especially true if it’s more subtle, verbal humor. I’m glad that Laurie Thompson has done a good job of that, and of course, I’m very glad you enjoyed the book.


  2. Jose Ignacio says:

    Great review Bernadette. Glad you like it. Thanks for your link.


  3. Dorte H says:

    I have also been a dedicated fan of Van Veeteren and his humour ever since I read the first in the series. I have read all ten, and I think they grow better and better.


  4. Maxine says:

    Good review, Bernadette. Quite a brutal, or brusque anyway, humour. But somehow he does make one laugh even at tragedy. I too have enjoyed the first four of this series that has so far been translated, and will definitely continue with them.


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  6. kathy durkin says:

    I have only read “Woman with Birthmark,” and thought it was good. With your review and Petrona’s of this book, I will read it, maybe to complete the Scandinavian Book Challenge, although I seem to be immersed in Australian crime fiction right now.


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