Woman with Birthmark – Hakan Nesser

Setting: Maardam, somewhere in Europe.

Story: A man is shot to death; twice in the chest and twice ‘under the belt.’ It soon transpires that this victim was the first of a serial killer with a list. Who is on the list, and why? Inspector Van Veeteren and the Maardam police race to solve the puzzle before the killer gets to the end of the list.

Good Stuff: Although this is not a whodunnit (nor much of a whydunnit) it’s a crackingly well told story of revenge, revenge and revenge. The killer’s back story is partly revealed at the beginning, and then at the end. That almost acts as a big pair of quotation marks round the revenge mission, as the police try to work out what is going on. ¬†And the revenge mission is as much a peak into the human condition as anything else: while the killer is on the loose, what makes a potential victim pretend he has nothing to fear, and refuse to involve the authorities? Just what steps will people go to, to protect what they see as their right to life?

Not So Good Stuff: Very little. I wasn’t 100% convinced by the ending, but this is one of those rare books where that cannot detract from a powerful story, well told.

Score: 7/10