Borkmann's Point (1994) by Häkan Nesser
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is in the last days of his vacation when his boss calls him to ask if he'd like to stay in the area a little longer. There has been a violent murder in the nearby coastal town of Kaalbringen and the local police have requested some assistance. They're not used to brutal deaths...especially not ax murders. And there doesn't seem to be any connection between the two men who have died so far. Even when a third murder occurs after Van Veeteren in on the job, it's difficult to find a pattern or connections. The only thing the men have in common is that they have recently returned to Kaalbringen after living elsewhere. Things get more intense when Detective Beate Moerk disappears after telling a team member that she's noticed something "bizarre" and just wants to check something. The killer left the weapon at the site of the last murder...but does that mean he won't kill the detective too? Van Veeteren and the team must find the connections that will lead them to the killer before he decides he must kill again.
It took forever to get to the point where Nesser explained what the title had to do with anything. I started the book thinking that Borkmann's Point could have be a place. It wasn't. Borkmann was one of the few policemen that Van Veeteren respected. And Borkmann always maintained that "there comes a point beyond which we don't really need any more information. When we reach that point, we already know enough to solve the case by means of nothing more than some decent thinking. A good investigation should try to establish when that point has been reached, or rather, when it has been passed; in his memoirs, Borkmann went so far as to claim it was precisely this ability, or lack of it, which distinguishes a good detective from a bad one."
This is the second book in the series but the first one translated into English. It was a decent, middle-of-the-road mystery. Some parts were so excellently written/translated that I lost myself in the story while some parts seemed more stilted (whether from the translation or a carry-over from the original, I don't know). And some of the characters and scenes are well done. I especially liked Detective Moerk and Detective Münster. In fact, I think they might have made a more compelling lead team for the investigation. The final few chapters carry more action the rest of the book and wrap-up is handled well--if only the big reveal were really as surprising as intended. It wasn't a surprise to me. I knew where we were headed long before Van Veeteren did. And speaking of Van Veeteren...he's a bit full of himself. Says at one point that all he needs to do is look at a suspect and he'll know right away if he's the guilty party. Spoiler alert--by the end of the book he's been looking at the culprit for quite some time and didn't recognize the guilt until the very end.
The actual detective work leaves a bit to be desired at times as well. Apparently, investigations consist of a great amount of time spent sitting around chatting about the case with the all the detective team members and eating pastries (policemen and doughnuts cliche, anyone?) or soaking in bathtubs and having deep thinking sessions. I'm giving this one ★★★...but maybe I should rethink that....
First line: Had Ernst Simmel known he was to be the Axman's second victim, he would no doubt have downed a few more drinks at The Blue Ship.
He'd been a police officer for thirty years--more than that--but no matter how hard he searched and ransacked his brain, he couldn't dig out a single ax murderer from the murky depths of his memory. (p. 12)
better make the most of everything that comes along. It looked suspiciously as if things might get more difficult. (p. 72)
Last line: What wouldn't one do for a decent glass of wine? Thought Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren as he started groping in the glove compartment for Penderecki.
Deaths = 8 (three killed by ax; two natural; one beaten to death; one blown up; one fell from height)