Sweden’s brilliant Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren solves a knotty puzzle—a little too late—in this first installment in the Van Veeteren series (The Return, 2007, etc.); two other volumes in the series have already been published in the United States.
At some point during a wild, alcohol-fueled, orgiastic night, schoolteacher Janek Mitter murdered his wife and colleague. Or so the police quickly decide, acting on the law-enforcement truism that when the corpse is a spouse, you can give odds forever that the surviving spouse is guilty. In due course, Mitter is arrested, indicted, convicted and bundled off to spend the rest of his natural life in a mental institution. But the outcome doesn’t sit well with near-legendary homicide cop DCI Van Veeteren, who, aware that things are seldom what they seem, squirms at the ease with which Mitter has been warehoused. Events bear him out when Mitter is murdered. Convinced that the two homicides are inextricably connected, and annoyed at his own weak-kneed response to the prodding of his celebrated instincts, Van Veeteren launches a much deeper investigation. It carries him back to the dark corners of some extremely complex lives before finally confronting him with a motive for murder that manages to shock even him.
Amiable Van Veeteren is a sly, cocksure sleuth.