Written by Håkan Nesser – Nesser is one of Sweden’s most popular crime writers, and his Inspector Van Veeteren novels have won a number of awards. The series is published in over 25 countries selling more than 10 million copies worldwide. Hour of the Wolf is the seventh of ten Van Veeteren novels, which are being translated into English.
Late one evening a man described as ‘the man who would soon kill somebody’ leaves his friends to drive home. The problem is he’s drunk, but having driven with alcohol in his bloodstream more than once in the past, he figures it will be okay. It’s pouring with rain and the windscreen wipers won’t work making it impossible for him to see anything properly. Then, a soft thud and a jerk of the steering wheel. When he pulls over and runs back he sees a teenage boy lying in a ditch, contorted at impossible angles. He abandons the body and heads back to his car to drive home.
Almost a week later, he has almost completely forgotten about the boy but a letter arrives. Someone saw the hit and run and wants 10,000 in return for their silence. When arranging the money drop the blackmailer wants it placed in a carrier bag from the Boodwick department store and left in the rubbish bin in the men’s toilets at Trattoria Commedia, at the golf course out at Dikken. The driver drops off the money as instructed and waits in his car in the car park. When a man emerges from the restaurant carrying the bag, our hit and run driver strikes him on the head with a pipe and drags him into the thick undergrowth that surrounding the car park.
He feels good about himself that the ordeal was finally over… but is it? A few days later another letter arrives telling the hit and run driver that he now had two lives on his conscience and the price for his silence is now 200,000…
When the second body is found it is identified as Erich Van Veeteran, the now retired Inspector Van Veeteren’s son. Because of this, his old team led by Inspector Reinhart put all their effort into the investigation and vow not to give up until they find the person responsible. They seem to be getting nowhere and another body is soon discovered with the same injuries as Eric Van Veeteren’s. Is this the same killer?
I have mixed feelings about Hour of the Wolf. I wasn’t engrossed in the storyline, yet I couldn’t stop reading it. For me, I think that was more to do with wanting to know how the story turned out, who the hit and run driver was and whether he would be caught than enjoying the book.
Having said that Hour of the Wolf does keep up an element of mystery throughout. Because of the way it’s told, the reader has no idea who either the hit and run driver or the blackmailer are until right at the very end. It is a fairly slow paced novel, but this does seem to more accurately reflect a murder investigation than in many novels with detectives cracking a mystery almost instantly. What I struggled with is that someone who committed a hit and run could then murder two further people in cold blood. The man portrayed as a psychopath but merely someone trying to cover his tracks after the accident.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars