Hour of the Wolf – Hakan Nesser

It’s a couple of years since I read a Nesser book, and this Inspector Van Veeteren mystery was an excellent reminder of the quirky, wonderful talent the author has.

Set in some unknown European country, it begins with a drunk driver making his way home after a boozy night out, killing a pedestrian. From the driver’s fleeing from the scene, matters snowball out of control, resulting in several deaths and dreadful emotional damage done to several families.

Van Veeteren, now retired and a partner in an antiquarian bookshop, becomes involved. Part of the unique aspect of this book in the series, is watching his interaction with his former colleagues. (If you read the book, you will find it quite touching.)

The plot, and how the police and Van Veeteren cope with finding and solving the clues, is well put together. There are enough twists and surprises, though that is not Nesser’s trademark specialty. Instead, it’s the writing.

The writing is a joy. It’s never flowery or overstated. However, you are drawn in to the thoughts of the characters and the world they inhabit. It’s a real world, with life going on all around the forces of law and order and the victims’ families, unceasingly. At times the perspective is overly pessimistic – like when Van Veeteren says “Life is much over-rated. But it’s better if you don’t discover that too soon.” – but there’s enough optimism lurking there to offset it. (Just!)

Nesser’s observational powers are superb, and he crafts his book with a brilliant balance of doom, gloom, humor, and hope. At the same time, he entertains.

Crime fiction of the highest quality. Strike that. Fiction of the highest quality. Highly recommended.