Review: Mind’s Eye by Hakan Nesser

Mind’s Eye: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery
by Håkan Nesser
Paperback, 278
Translation Published June 2009 by Vintage (First Published 1993)
Translated by Laurie Thompson
Rating: 4/5

When I read Mind’s Eye by Hakan Nesser the first time, I didn’t like at all. I didn’t get it and I didn’t know how I could write a review about a book I disliked so intensely. I put it in the pile of books (finished, unfinished, not yet read) and forgot about it. I came across it when I was going through the pile and thought I should give it another shot. And I’m glad I did! 😛

Mind’s Eye by Swedish author Hakan Nesser is the first novel in the Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Van Veeteren series, which takes place in the fictional city of Maardam in Northern Europe.  It is a crime procedural about a cantankerous police detective, DCI Van Veeteren on the hunt for a killer.  He is not, convinced the right man (Janek Mitter) has been convicted of murdering his wife (Eva Ringmar). Van Veeteren regrets not following his gut and looking into the murder of Eva more.  After her husband is found murdered he launches an investigation into the death of Eva and her husband, Janek.

There are lots of themes in Mind’s Eye. Some major and some minor. The main theme of the novel is the title, itself — Mind’s Eye. Mind’s Eye refers to humans’ ability for visual mental imagery; to see things with your mind (i.e. remembering or imagining things or solving a crime, etc.).

This theme is shown in the very beginning when Mitter’s wakes from his drunken stupor not remembering his name. The narrator states:

Behind a thin membrane that would have to be pierced, something that had not woken up yet.” Pg 4.

. . . with Van Veeteren:

there was always a mass of tiny little signs pointing in one direction or another, and over the years he had learned to identify and interpret these signs.” pg 29

Eva used her psychiatrist (Eduard Caen) to remember her son, Willie:

. . . we talked almost exclusively about him.  She used me as a means of remembering him. We often pretended that Willie was still alive; we talked about our sons and discussed their futures.” p 117

Dysfunction permeates this novel to the point where it seems almost implausible to have so many dysfunctional characters come together.  The only normal character is Inspector Münster, who is married and has children and is visibly annoyed when Van Veeteren has him out at a bar until the early morning discussing the case.

DCI Van Veeteren, the protagonist, is my favorite character and Janek Mitter comes is a close second.  I like that Van Veeteren is cantankerous, self-assured, arrogant, exceptionally good at his job, and a pain in the backside.  He is also perhaps the most troubled character.  His son is in jail, the dog is critically ill, his wife leaves him repeatedly and then expects him to take her back at a moments notice, he is prone to depression, he drinks too much, and he doesn’t appear to really like people.

The first time  the reader really sees Van Veeteren’s self-assuredness and arrogance is when he is interrogating Mitter.  He says,:

. . . Do whatever you like, I shall unmask you anyway.  Six hours or twenty minutes, it makes no difference to me. (p. 33)

Mitter is a sarcastic, smart-alec bastard, with a razor sharp wit.  When he is on trial he says perhaps visually the funniest line in the novel:

. . . I didn’t kill her.  Just as I’m sure that you know you are not wearing frilly knickers today. . . (pg. 67)

Mind’s Eye has lots of good juicy bits and you definitely must be an active reader as you are on the journey of discovering who the murderer is with Van Veeteren.  You, the reader, and Van Veeteren are presented with clues at the same time.  Nesser lets you get to know his characters by their quirks or rather their dysfunctions.  The major problem I had with the novel were the last two chapters.  I didn’t care for them at all.

I definitely recommend reading Mind’s Eye, but pay attention because you just might miss something.

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