The Unlucky Lottery – Hakan Nesser

Setting: Maardam. (Reminder: The city is fictional, and the book doesn’t tie itself down more than that. The names of the characters have a Netherlandish flavor, however.)

Story: Four grumpy old gits win 20,000 euros on the lottery and go out for dinner to celebrate. That night, one disappears, and one is violently stabbed to death in his bed. When the investigation is only a few days old, a woman who lived in the same block as the murder victim, also disappears. What, if any are the connections, and who is responsible?

Good Stuff: This time Van Veeteren takes a step backwards, and his colleagues Munster and Moreno and company, take two steps forward into the limelight. Hakan Nesser takes the opportunity to flesh out these characters without detracting from the unfolding mystery. And, as I now expect from his books, the characterization is of the highest quality. The mystery is a real puzzle, and the ending a real combination of surprise and sucker punch. Suffice it to say, you’ll know you have been entertained by a gifted writer. Once again, top marks for the translation.

Not So Good Stuff: It takes just a fraction too long for the mystery to begin unraveling, though that may signify more impatience on my part than any lack on the writer’s. Van Veeteren’s offstage contributions don’t add much to the mix, beyond reminding us that he isn’t active in this investigation. Until the very end, that is, an intervention that was a little neat. However, these are minor matters of taste.

Score: 7/10

Note to Amazon: I am reading these books out of order, because the website doesn’t make it clear, or easy to find out, in what (chronological) order the novels occur. This is a rare lapse by Amazon. Note to Readers: You will enjoy these books, regardless of the order you read them in.

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