Sweden’s Chief Inspector Van Veeteren and his squad seek a serial killer avenging a terrible crime.
The woman calling herself Maria Adler remembers well her mother’s weary expression in the months before her premature and unlamented demise. Now she’s determined to seek revenge for the crime that drove her mother to a life so marginal that her death created scarcely a ripple. Soon she’s claimed her first victim: Ryszard Malik, a dealer in restaurant equipment. The unusually emphatic method of execution—two bullets in the chest, two more below the belt—naturally calls forth comment from Maardam’s Inspector Reinhart and Chief Inspector Van Veeteren. But it’s not until bullying schoolteacher Rickard Maasleitner is dispatched in exactly the same way that the police realize they have a serial murderer on their hands, and that, defying the odds, this one may just be a woman. Although they manage to keep most of the details out of the papers, they aren’t the only ones to connect both victims to the United Service Staff College class of 1965. Two other members of the class, seeing the pattern that’s developing, take steps to stop the one-woman crime wave themselves, either by defending themselves forcefully at the point of possible attack or by taking the battle preemptively to the woman who’s made them fear for their lives.
Van Veeteren’s fourth English-language appearance (Mind’s Eye, 2008, etc.) produces the amalgam all procedures seek: a distillation of commonplace crime and detection into something altogether more intense and humane.