Why did I get it: I have a thing for mysteries that come from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. I also really liked the chilling –no pun intended– premise of this book. Getting the printed version of the book proved to be difficult, so I decided to give the audio book a chance. (This book will count towards my Nordic Reading Challenge for 2011.)
How I would rate it: 3 out of 5 stars.
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren knew that murder cases were never as open-and-shut as this one: Janek Mitter woke one morning with a brutal hangover and discovered his wife of three months lying facedown in the bathtub, dead. With only the flimsiest excuse as his defense, he is found guilty of a drunken crime of passion and imprisoned in a mental institution.
But Van Veeteren’s suspicions about the identity of the killer are borne out when Mitter also becomes a murder victim. Now the chief inspector launches a full-scale investigation of the two slayings. But it may only be the unspoken secrets of the dead–revealed in a mysterious letter that Mitter wrote shortly before his death–that will finally allow Van Veeteren to unmask the killer and expose the shocking root of this sordid violence.
Review: There was so much that this book did well and over all I enjoyed listening to it, but I do sort of feel like the plot/case was a bit underwhelming. I liked the complexity that was added to everything due to Mitter being so drunk that he apparently developed severe memory loss. Or perhaps it was a result of trauma, hard to say.
Anyway, the notion of following Janek Mitter around from the time he wakes up to discover his wife to the time he himself is killed was fascinating in one respect. However, because he was always going to die, it ultimately didn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things and any conclusions he reached on his own were not shared with the reader. To be fair, Nesser’s writing and Vance’s superb voice acting made it impossible for me to be too upset that Mitter didn’t matter much in the scheme of things since I came to care about him a great deal. However, I do strongly object to be being purposefully left in the dark. And Mitter wasn’t the last character to leave me hanging.
I think it would be fair to say that Mind’s Eye was very character-driven, reflective, atmospheric and introspective. Van Veeteren, who was without a doubt the driving force behind the book, proved also be the very best part of it. Runner-ups include his entire team, particularly Munster. I could have done without the awkward moments though such as Van Veeteren feeling sorry for the killer and the inspector engaging in meta, comparing their case and life itself to novels and movies instead of explaining anything he’d managed to figure out.
The absolute worst part for me though was that the most obvious lead was completely ignored until the very end where, I suspect, the reveal was intended to come as a shock. Now I am no mystery buff by any means, but the mystery here was so painfully easy to unravel that I came close to having fits as I waited for them to figure it out. I get that knowing who the murderer was doesn’t necessarily mean understanding his motivations, but at the same time, it just sort of bothered me that none of the competent detectives thought to look further into this one guy when there were no other potential suspects. Still, I imagine things would have been much worse if I hadn’t loved Van Veeteren. He is a character that is completely and utterly worth knowing. I loved his brooding, grumpy, begrudging, sardonic point of view, and this won’t be my last audio book about him.
In conclusion, I would say the writing, the reading, and the characters were terrific, but the plot was pretty much the stuff of short stories. However, this was not bad for a first book in a series and definitely provided a very, very satisfying introduction to a fascinating character. If you enjoy Simon Vance’s voice work, you will love this. If you enjoy mysteries where the case is of little consequence compared to characterization and moody insights, you should definitely give Mind’s Eye a shot. I for one will be rapidly moving on to Borkmann’s Point, the next book in the Inspector Van Veeteren series.