Woman With Birthmark by Hakan Nesser

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Woman With Birthmark by Hakan Nesser

Buy Woman With Birthmark by Hakan Nesser at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Written in 1996 but timeless it's a whodunnit with a twist and a very satisfiying conclusion. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0333989876

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It was just two days before Christmas and the woman was the only mourner at her mother's funeral. The driving rain chilled to the bone but there were two thoughts in the her mind. That down there in the grave her mother would be free from the wind and the rain was the first. The second was the revenge which she would extract because of the story her mother had told her just half an hour before she died.

It was after Christmas and into the New Year when a local man received some unsettling telephone calls. They were just music – a song which he vaguely remembered – but the calls came several times. Then one night this man, a reputable if slightly boring member of the community, answered the doorbell and the caller shot him dead with two shots to the chest and two below the belt. There were no clues for Chief Inspector Van Veeteren and his team – and the investigation had hardly built up a head of steam when another man was murdered in exactly the same way.

There's one type of crime novel which I particularly dislike and that's where you get almost to the end and a new piece of information is introduced which makes everything clear. It always feels like a cheat on the part of the author and no matter how good the book had been up to this point I'm always left with a feeling of disappointment. In Woman With Birthmark we have the opposite situation as the reader has a great deal more information at their disposal than the police can even suspect.

It's an elegantly told story of an investigation which has absolutely nothing to go on. Even the sex of the murderer is pure supposition and it's only those shots 'below the belt' which give a hint to the team – apart from that it's the hard slog of routine police work which eventually establishes a connection between the two murdered men. Even then there's still a mountain to climb.

When I read my first Van Veeteren book I was unsettled by the statelessness of the setting. Nesser is a Swede, but the stories take place in another country with strong hints of Holland but nowhere that you can quite pinpoint. Before long this ceased to worry me and I simply enjoyed the tale. Similarly, this book was published in 1996 and has only just been translated (perfectly, as usual, by Laurie Thompson) into English, but there's no sense of the story being dated in any way. It is just a very, very good, timeless story.

The ending is particularly satisfying despite the fact that it wasn't at all what I was expecting. I'm not even going to hint at why – you'll have to read the book to discover that for yourself – but I'd be surprised if you didn't sit there nodding wisely to yourself.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you will certainly enjoy The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell.

Buy Woman With Birthmark by Hakan Nesser at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Woman With Birthmark by Hakan Nesser at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Woman With Birthmark by Hakan Nesser at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Woman With Birthmark by Hakan Nesser at Amazon.com.


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