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Nesser, Hakan - 'Borkmann's Point' (translated by Laurie Thompson)
Paperback: 256 pages (May 2007) Publisher: Pan Books ISBN: 0330492764

Borkmann's point is not, as I'd assumed when starting to read this novel, a place. Rather it is the stage of an investigation at which enough data has been gathered to solve the case. Too little information and the criminal can't be identified. Too much and the investigator can be distracted by irrelevances. The skill of the policeman is knowing when that point is reached - when the solution will come just by thinking about what is known. A theoretical, one may even say Sherlockian, approach.

Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is on what seems to be a very long holiday when he is asked to assist in a local crime. A second person has been killed by an "Ax murderer", and the provincial police are running out of leads, especially as their boss is about to retire and seems to be losing interest in the job. Is there a serial killer on the loose?

The rest of the book covers the investigation in detail. I found it enjoyable enough; the humour is dry and the characters of the local police well drawn. There was a curious lack of pace or tension as the book progressed, particularly when one of the central characters disappears. Nobody seems to act very quickly to find out what has happened; rather, Van Veeteren muses on whether he has reached the eponymous "point" (so named after an ex-mentor of his) while time runs out. Eventually the mystery is solved, but although the outcome does not break any rules of the genre, I found it a bit of a let down. The "hint at the mind of the killer" interludes throughout the book are also a genre cliche, though to be fair to the author, the original publication in Swedish was in 1994.

The book is absorbing, and certainly well-written. Van Veeteren's robust, resolutely unfashionable personality is the most appealing part of the book. At the start, we are given some hints about his troubled family relationships which are not followed up, so maybe we will find out more about this intriguing character in future outings. The excellent translation, by the way, is by Laurie Thompson, who I am sure contributes to the easy readability of this novel as he does to Henning Mankell's Wallander series.

Read other reviews of BORKMANN'S POINT here and here.

Maxine Clarke, England
May 2007

Maxine hangs out at Petrona.

last updated 8/05/2009 17:06