The Inspector And Silence

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What made this novel seem better than it actually was is that it happened to be one of two books I had been juggling with at the same time and which saw a similar theme running through both: fundamentalist religion. Not something I am particularly endeared to but “cultic idiocy” tends to invite my gaze. Human beings equipped with the power of reason wallowing in bollix and bunkum.

I suppose it is easier to be more forgiving of it in a novel but the other book was a non-fiction account about the origins and history of Mormonism and with particular focus on the more murderous adherents of Joe Smith’s blatant con club. A few days ago The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put on display the stone that helped Smith translate the Book of Mormon.

Derangement, when it happens in real life, affords no shelter in the way we can take refuge from fiction by simply intoning: “it didn’t really happen”. But there we go: talking snakes and talking stones and everyone is happy in their religious delirium. Smith, for his part, needed a moral framework that would allow him to screw the piece out and came up with a religion fit for purpose. Screwing was a feature of the cult at the heart of Nesser’s The Inspector And Silence. For all their pontificating about sex the religious seem to treat an idle dick as a cardinal sin.

Like the work of Karin Fossum I didn’t start at the beginning of this particular Inspector’s police career, jumping in at the halfway point. This is the fifth book in the series. Another divorced cop. Many of them seem to be or at least have turbulent home lives that they brood about, work providing them some respite from living lives that are a string of misfortunes. Maybe transferred anger is a factor in their penchant for violence, although pugilistic policing did not feature in this novel.

A hot Swedish summer. Sergeant Merwin Kluuge is happily anticipating the arrival of his first child. He is in charge at the local station only because the usual incumbent is on vacation, hoping to get the slack shift. The activities of Pure Life will not make for a peaceful life in the station. Pure Life is a religious cult led by a Good Shepard and like many a good Shepard he enjoys shagging the sheep.

When the call comes through from a mystery woman Kluuge takes it. She tells him a girl has been murdered. No body is discovered - the cult claims nobody is missing, so Kluuge reverts back to his slumber. A second call then reveals the location of the body and the caller threatens to go to the papers. Cops don’t really like journalists as a profession. The guards do not like being guarded, nor the investigators investigated. The threat got them moving.

It turns out that a young girl, one out of about a dozen on summer vacation at the camp, has been murdered. The suspicious is aroused that The Good Shepard has moved from sheep slagging to sheep slaughtering. Inspector Van Veeteren is called in to be told by the cult members – when they are of a mind to break their silence - that it is the work of the Devil who has the camp in his fiery sights. What would we do without old Lucifer to blame it all on? The Leader of the sect, Oscar Yellineck, has also mysteriously departed the scene so ... the devil too works in mysterious ways.

Almost 60 there have to be better things to do in life, Van Veteran thinks, playing chess for example, or finding a new love in Crete, where he is due to holiday in a fortnight’s time. With over three decades spent serving as a cop Van Veeteren senses it is time to call it a day. Pure Life will not let him.

A typical whodunit mystery, the book was of interest largely because of the cultic aspect rather than the strength of the story itself which at points was a touch dull. It was redeemed by the twist. A sign of a good twist is the reader feeling the urge to delve back through the pages to see how they missed the clues, how the perp came out of left field and caught them unawares.

And the Silence.

HÃ¥kan Nesser, 2011, The Inspector And Silence. Pan.  ISBN-13: 978-0330512503


  1. Two not to read then.
    Though I suppose, given the excess of 'bollix and bunkum' that men of our generation and location were exposed to, its understandable and perhaps even wise that we'd often need to vicariously revisit and review that 'cultic idiocacy' in its myriad forms.

    I can't say for certain but maybe we come with a template, a healthy template if we're lucky enough, that pre-programmes us to poke about in our vomit. Its only natural after all to try and discover what it was we'd swallowed that made us sick! Maybe the odd sneaky peek at our poo is normal and useful too?

    As another traveller on the path recently commented "dodgy dogmas are terribly toxic".

  2. HJ.
    For someone who is opposed to dogma..You ain't have putting forth some dogma of your own.
    And when asked to explain your position some time broke it down into the simple
    You can't change things you can't control.
    Well all that is fine assuming the other guy has benign intent.
    But when the other fellow has genocidal fatasisies and you belong to one of those ethnic groups whose face don't fit.
    Then your dogma and your mantra is not a saftey blanket or even wise,
    Don't go gently into that good night Henry.
    Don't roll over.

  3. Henry Joy,

    the Mormon one is a very good read

  4. Ozzy,

    I don't confuse opinion with dogma. All right, I can and do get attached to my opinions and defend them vigorously at times ... and don't we all to some extent do that?

    What I don't do is claim infallibility. People are free to agree with me just as they are free to disagree.

    I offer reasoned arguments as best I can. And yes, sometimes I'm forceful in my debating style but to confuse that with dogma is to confuse individual opinion, that has little influence over anyone, with an authoritative system that has power to control, is just an erroneous understanding of the difference between expression of opinion (free speech) and dogmatism (which generally curtails freedom of thought and speech).

    Sometimes the right decision is go with the odds. Sometimes the right decision is to throw your hand in and leave the game.

    I'll have you know too that brave men ran in my family.


    Perhaps I'll check that one out further after-all.

  5. HJ.
    I don't have a problem with running away as a tactical measure.
    But I do have a problem when it becomes strategy.

    Also, I agree with you about the need to avoid a military solution..and the reasons for same.
    However I disagree with you when you use the same arguments against people who believe in a different path to the GFA but are peaceful opponents.
    eg the 1916 socities fall into that latter group.

  6. Ozzy

    thanks for your measured response.

    I don't know if you'll agree with me on this but surely no dogma or belief system, whether that be religious, political or cultural ought to be above criticism or scrutiny?

    Surely, you'll not claim that the Societies must be the exception to that? If the Societies are to become the influencers that, I assume, they hope and aspire to be ought'n they be able to offer rebuttals to the type of critique I offer?

    In fairness your responses in exchanges that we have engaged in have generally been rational and indeed sometimes offered thought provoking perspectives based on, what appears to me as, your own specialities and interests (I'm thinking maritime and economic matters in particular here).
    On the other hand there are certain individuals who hold views supportive of the Societies and who have a tendency to re-act aggressively when their positions are challenged. In doing so, they close off any opportunity for debate, learning and growth by going off on a defensive rant and reducing any potential exchange of ideas to what inevitably ends in a personalised ad hominem on the 'bold' Henry JoY.
    That that in turn sometimes elicits less than empathetic responses is hardly surprising. As you sow, so shall you reap and all that.