Münster's Case is billed as an Inspector Van Veteren mystery, but we see very little of Maardam's veteran Chief Inspector until near the end of the story (although his presence is felt). Instead, Hakan Nesser turns the investigation over to Van Veteren's colleague, Intendent Münster, along with a large crew of lesser inspectors, some of whom serve only to muddy the waters.
Four retirees are informed they've won a 20,000-guilder lottery--not a fortune, but worth celebrating. They get gloriously drunk at their favorite bar, two of them argue and everyone goes home. At around 2 a.m., Waldemar Leverkuhn is brutally murdered, stabbed 28 times. It subsequently develops that another member of the quartet, Bogner, disappeared that night. Are the two events connected?
Much of the first part of the novel is concerned with the investigators trying to figure out not only who killed Leverkuhn but whether they should also be looking for Bogner's body. The detectives visit his houseboat several times but never find him, leading them to believe he met with foul play on the way back. Bogner and Leverkuhn are the two who had argued, giving credence to the possibility the dispute continued outside the bar and culminated in Leverkuhn's death.
Marie-Louise, Leverkuhn's wife, came home late to find her husband in a veritable bloodbath; she says she ran out to go to the police station nearby, discovered it closed, then came back home to call the police. Those are the barest bones of a story that turns out to be much more detailed, convoluted and unexpected than it first appears. The Leverkuhns' apartment caretaker, Else Van Eck, also disappears suddenly: Is it connected to the murder? Interviews with the three grown Leverkuhn children also deepen the mystery.
Just when the reader thinks that the story is all sorted out, an unexpected snapper at the end makes one realize there were early clues to the outcome all along.
A few caveats: Sometimes, Laurie Thompson's translation of Nesser's Swedish feels clumsy: statements which seem meant to be idiomatic read as clichés; the same speculations are made by too many people; internal monologues are too truncated to make sense .--Valerie Ryan
Shelf Talker: Hakan Nesser returns to the Scandinavian dark and gloom, with a new lead investigator in a murder case where the unexpected trumps the ordinary.