My first Hakan Nesser and I'm hooked. A young boy is killed by a hit-and-run driver and with his death begins a spiral of violence in the fictional location of Maardam. One of the victims is the estranged son of Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, venerated to mythical proportions by the police officers working the case. His grief for his son, his cautious reaching out towards his son's girlfriend, all help personalise the tragedy. What's even more ironic is that his son, like the first hit-and-run victim, was killed by mistake.
This book is a whodunnit on several levels. We're introduced to the killer early on in the book, and his descent from panic-stricken hit-and-run driver to psychotic killer is detailed and chilling. We still don't know his identity though, and as in all the most satisfying crime novels, the reader's in competition with the investigators trying to identify the murderer. The killer himself is trying to identify his blackmailer.
If you like Scandinavian crime fiction, you'll enjoy The Hour Of The Wolf. If you don't, it'll be a turning point. Trust me. This book busts all the myths about Nordic crime fiction- the plot revolves not around twisted gory ritualistic killings but could be something out of the local newspaper. No dark, suffocating atmosphere either, or the crippling sense of self-hate. The down-to-earth police officers banter does a great job of lightening the atmosphere and grounding the book to reality. Nesser maintains a delicate balance though, never allowing the station-room humour to jar, as his central characters ponder guilt- both the murderers and their own. And once I got the confusing Nordic names straight, I enjoyed the details about the detectives personal lives - one worrying about an awkward love affair, another about his daughters health- that made each one come alive.
Of course, the Nordic obsession with the murderers mind is still the central focus, but Nessers fascination is with the descent of the ordinary into the psychotic- with a killer who, in his own words, was a normal man two months ago. The ultimate chill is when you think, this could easily be me.