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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Borkmann's Point

Håkan Nesser

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To purchase Borkmann's Point

Title: Borkmann's Point
Author: Håkan Nesser
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 321 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Borkmann's Point - US
Borkmann's Point - UK
Borkmann's Point - Canada
Das vierte Opfer - Deutschland
  • An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery
  • Swedish title: Borkmanns Punkt
  • Translated by Laurie Thompson

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Our Assessment:

B : heavy on the dialogue, decent style, middling case

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 9/4/2006 Marilyn Stasio
San Francisco Chronicle . 12/3/2006 Carlo Wolff
The Times . 20/5/2006 Marcel Berlins

  From the Reviews:
  • "Although the writing feels a bit stodgy in Laurie Thompson's translation, Nesser has a penetrating eye for the skull beneath the skin." - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

  • "You can take your time reading it. And though it doesn't rush the reader, you don't want it to end. (...) Borkmann's Point is that rarity, a leisurely read that nevertheless keeps you on the edge of your seat. (...) Like the films of Ingmar Bergman and the paintings of Edvard Munch, Borkmann's Point is mystical rather than naturalistic." - Carlo Wolff, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Borkmann’s Point was originally published in 1994, and has a slightly dated feel about it, but the plot is sound and fast-moving, there is a tense climax, and Chief Inspector Van Veeteren of the Dutch police is an amiably dour investigator." - Marcel Berlins, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Borkmann's Point is the first 'Van Veeteren mystery' to be translated into English, but it's not the first in the series, and though it stands on its own there's obviously already some background about the Chief Inspector that readers are missing. The book begins with Van Veeteren on a seaside vacation, and the fairly explosive information that his son is also in the neighbourhood:

Erich had been allowed out on parole on condition that he stay with his father on this remote stretch of coast.
       Yet not only do readers learn essentially nothing about Erich's wrongdoings, that's also pretty much the last we hear of him. Which seems an awful lot to leave hanging in the air like that
       In a more successful touch, the Van Veeteren mysteries have a general dislocated feel to them. The unnamed country where he lives and works isn't a real nation; a northern European coastal country, it feels like a Dutch-Swedish amalgam, but remains stubbornly un-pin-downable, an alternative world that's part of the real one and yet not quite there which Nesser uses very nicely.
       Van Veeteren gets called away from his vacation because there's been a murder nearby, and his bosses figure he might be able to help out the locals. The murder is a brutal one, a chop of an axe nearly severing the victim's head. And it's not the first: a few months earlier someone was dealt the exact same blow.
       The local chief of police, Bausen, is closing in fast on retirement, and this is the biggest crime he's had to deal with in the relatively sleepy town of Kaalbringen. But he is an old hand, and among the novel's best scenes are those between the two grizzled men, sounding each other out (whereby the shared taste for good wine and chess helps).
       Heavy on dialogue, Håkan Nesser's police procedural moves along quickly enough. Beside the two older policemen there are the trusted assistants: local girl Beate Moerk, who shows a flair for this police work, and Van Veeteren's sidekick Münster, who is eventually called in to help out. (Moerk is unmarried and starting to worry about ever finding someone, while family man Münster is having some marital problems, making for a variety of tensions fizzling in the background.)
       There's lots of interviewing and a bit of philosophising, false confessions and a frustrating search for connexions and a motive. There's a third victim, too, -- and then one of their own disappears, adding to the tension.
       Unfortunately, Nesser likes to rely on the unspoken and unrevealed -- which extends to his characters. Van Veeteren must be incredibly frustrating to work with, as he typically cryptically announces to his underlings:
     "I'm going to make a little trip," said Van Veeteren.
     "Where to ?"
     "We'll see."
       Similarly, one officer is onto something pretty early one, and leaves a note tantalizingly mentioning: "Something struck me." Actually mentioning what it was that was striking is, of course, too much to ask for -- and (surprise !) it's that officer that promptly disappears .....
       The jaunty style is certainly readable, and enough happens to keep up the suspense (and there's the nice fill of quirky characters and traits, which adds a decent bit of colour), but it's not a taut thriller. The resolution also isn't entirely satisfactory: it's a good enough explanation, but readers might have hoped for something cleverer.
       A decent but unexceptional read.

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Borkmann's Point: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Håkan Nesser was born in 1950.

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© 2006-2021 the complete review

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