“Woman With Birthmark” By Håkan Nesser

Woman with Birthmark (or in Swedish “Kvinna med födelsemärke“) is a 1996 novel by Håkan Nesser, which won the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in the same year. The English translation of the book was released in 2009 at the time when there was a Swedish Crime Fiction hype in the market. The book has also found its way into Television and a Swedish mini-series covered the novel in 2001.

A brief Summary:

Inspector Van Veeteren and his associates are left bewildered by the curious murder of a man shot twice in the heart and twice below the belt. An utterly dull man, the only suspicious activity his surviving wife can report is a series of peculiar phone calls.

Repeatedly the telephone would ring, offering no answer but an obscure pop song from the 1960s. This siren song would be linked to an identical murder, but the true connection remains unknown.

With a cool, critical eye, Van Veeteren pursues his subject across the country, wading through outrageous leads and fruitless tips in this chilling mystery from master crime novelist Håkan Nesser.

Our Take:

A main plot which instantly absorbs the readers: Several middle aged men are murdered, all shot twice in the heart and twice in the testicles. Although the reader can easily guess that the killer is a woman who is seeking revenge against the victims, the answer to mystery is only revealed when Van Veeteren digs deeply in the past of each of the murdered men.

The book is a fast paced police procedural which at 326 pages, is a relatively quick read. Nesser is a master at dialogue and character development and for those readers who enjoy the cold atmospheric descriptions of Sweden, this book will be an entertaining read.

We somewhat felt sympathetic to the murderer as we learned more about this disturbing tale of revenge. Throughout the story, the dose of suspense in the story is not very high and readers are most of the times ahead of Van Veeteren in at least figuring out the probable motive. However, the suspense picks up at the end and a great twist changes everything: The ending is a surprise shift away from the predictability in the whole story.

Our Rating: 4.0

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