Munster's Case (Inspector Van Veeteren Series #6)

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Overview

Detective Münster—Van Veeteren's longtime sidekicktakes center stage in this intensely suspenseful crime novel.

For Waldemar Leverkuhn, a retiree living with his wife in an unassuming block of apartments, the day couldn't begin more auspiciously. He and three friends have won the lottery. It's a modest but healthy sum of money and the old men toast to their good luck with a celebratory dinner. The day ends, however, with Leverkuhn drunk, ...

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Munster's Case (Inspector Van Veeteren Series #6)

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Overview

Detective Münster—Van Veeteren's longtime sidekicktakes center stage in this intensely suspenseful crime novel.

For Waldemar Leverkuhn, a retiree living with his wife in an unassuming block of apartments, the day couldn't begin more auspiciously. He and three friends have won the lottery. It's a modest but healthy sum of money and the old men toast to their good luck with a celebratory dinner. The day ends, however, with Leverkuhn drunk, stumbling, belligerent, and eventually dead in his bed, stabbed twenty-eight times in the chest with a carving knife. After a cursory investigation that only leads to more questions than answers, Leverkuhn's quiet, weary wife confesses to her husband's murder. The case seems to have solved itself, but when the Leverkuhn's formidable neighbor Else Van Eck goes missing and is later discovered murdered in gruesome fashion, Detective Münster and his team find themselves back in the fog and chasing after wisps of clues that indicate that the murders are inextricably linked.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Intendent Münster steps out of the shadow of his old boss, the now fully retired Inspector Van Veeteren, in Nesser’s sterling sixth Inspector Van Veeteren mystery (after 2011’s The Inspector and Silence). Münster has to figure out who stabbed retiree Waldemar Leverkuhn 28 times in his sleep on the night he and three of his friends celebrated winning the lottery. Their shared winnings come out to about 5,000 guilders each, hardly worth murdering for, and Leverkuhn appeared to be a harmless old man without enemies, despite his emotionally frozen family. As Münster and his team investigate, another lottery winner vanishes. The discovery of the body of one of Leverkuhn’s neighbors raises the ante. Gallows humor punctuates the solid plot as Münster’s introspective musings lead to a surprising ending. Münster’s growing self-confidence and his insight show that he can carry the series on his own. Agency: Bonnier Group Agency. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Throughout his first five appearances translated into English (The Inspector and Silence, 2011, etc.), Chief Inspector Van Veeteren has constantly threatened to retire, but this time he seems to mean it, leaving the scant detecting honors here to Inspector Münster. Waldemar Leverkuhn's lucky day, which begins when he splits a lottery prize of 20,000 guilders with three old friends, ends when he's stabbed 28 times as he sleeps off his drunken celebration. That same night, fellow winner Felix Bonger goes missing from his houseboat, and shortly thereafter so does Else Van Eck, the wife of the caretaker in Leverkuhn's building. The Leverkuhn children are no help in Münster's investigation. The eldest daughter, Irene, has been a patient in a mental hospital for years, and her lesbian sister Ruth and weak-kneed brother Mauritz haven't remained close enough to their parents to offer any helpful information. The biggest break in the case comes when Leverkuhn's wife, Marie-Louise, who's been acting more shocked than grief-stricken, suddenly confesses to his murder and--this being an unspecified fictional country that combines features of Sweden, Finland and Holland, but certainly not the U.S.--is promptly put on trial. From beginning to end, in fact, the case is driven not by any discoveries the police make but by developments outside their control. Münster, who feels very much like a stopgap sleuth, cuts an even less assuming figure than Van Veeteren, who pops up as a kind of Greek chorus from time to time to remind you that it's his franchise. The mystery, like the detection, manages to be both routine and gripping.
BookPage
“Sure to be a hit with fans of Scandinavian suspense, as well as those who enjoy a first-rate police procedural.”
BookPage
From the Publisher
“Gallows humor punctuates the solid plot as Münster’s introspective musings lead to a surprising ending.”
Publishers Weekly [HC starred review]

“The mystery, like the detection, manages to be both routine and gripping.”
Kirkus Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review

The prevailing mood of Håkan Nesser's Münster's Case, is deflated, exhausted, and resigned; just what we have come to expect when we open a Scandinavian crime novel. "It was nearly half past eight, but it was obvious that it was going to be one of those gray, rainy Sundays when it never really became light," Nesser writes of an autumn day in Stockholm. "One of those damp waiting rooms."

In this monochrome world, sunshine, like optimism, is fleeting and unreliable. But the gloom that Nesser creates is not merely a literary convention. Deftly conjured up in a few plain sentences, this subdued atmosphere is also oddly — and disturbingly — intimate. Its gray weight seems to shrink the distance between killer and victim, between violent death and everyday life. The crime scene in Münster's Case, for example, is as banal as this: "A hodgepodge of bad taste on the walls, furniture of the cheap fifties and sixties style. Separate bedrooms, bookcases with no books, and an awful lot of dried blood in and around Leverkuhn's sagging bed."

Seventy-two year old Waldemar Leverkuhn, drunk after a night out with old friends in his local bar, has been stabbed almost thirty times in his own bed. Was he murdered for his recent lottery winnings? For revenge? As young Inspector Münster and his team interview Leverkuhn's widow, his adult children, and his friends, all straightforward explanations recede. "You don't need to have a motive for killing anyone nowadays," one detective observes, and Münster agrees: "Motives are beginning to be a bit old-fashioned." There is a motive, of course. It emerges incrementally as Leverkuhn's past is examined, but Nesser, sly as ever, also makes the resolution profoundly shocking. To reach it, Münster turns for advice to his mentor, Inspector Van Veeteren, the protagonist of Nesser's previous novels in this series.

"Things seem to be pulling in different directions," the philosophical Van Veeteren tells Münster when asked for his opinion. "The threads seem to be unwinding instead of coming together." By then, a second murder has been committed, and the body parts of a professionally butchered corpse have been stumbled upon. An astonishing act by Leverkhun's dowdy, expressionless widow takes the novel temporarily into the courtroom, yet even then Nesser keeps the plot off balance and vibrating with unease.

A jury's verdict is not the same thing as the truth; that appears to reside among Leverkhun's three children. One daughter is in a mental hospital, the other daughter and son are as unremarkable as the dull parents with whom they had little contact. In scenes that are both delicate and unadorned, Nesser presents the Leverkhuns in all their drabness and then gradually allows us glimpses of their turbulent inner lives. "Something had come home after a long journey," their mother reflects as her own life is about to end abruptly. Münster suspects it is the murderer that had come home, and this suspicion proves almost fatal as Nesser smoothly heightens the tension without disturbing the surface of this brutal, compassionate novel.

Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Reviewer: Anna Mundow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307906861
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/7/2012
  • Series: Inspector Van Veeteren Series , #6
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

HÅKAN NESSER has been awarded numerous prizes including the Swedish Crime Writers' Academy Prize and the Crime Writers of Scandinavia's Glass Key Award for best crime novel of the year.

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Read an Excerpt

1
 
The last day of Waldemar Leverkuhn’s life could hardly have begun any better.
 
After a windy night of nonstop rain, mild autumn sunshine was now creeping in through the kitchen window. From the balcony overlooking the courtyard he could hear the characteristic soft cooing of lovelorn pigeons, and the fading echo of his wife’s footsteps on the stairs as she set off for the market. The Neuwe Blatt was spread out on the table in front of him, and he had just laced his morning coffee with a couple of drops of gin when Wauters rang.
 
“We won,” Wauters said.
 
“Won?” said Leverkuhn.
 
“Christ yes, we won!” said Wauters. “They said so on the radio.”
 
“On the radio?”
 
“Fuck me if we haven’t won twenty thousand! Five each—and not a day too soon!”
 
“The lottery?”
 
“The lottery, yes. What else? What did I tell you? There was something special in the air when I bought the ticket. My God, yes! Mrs. Milkerson in the corner shop sort of coaxed it out! As if she really was picking out the right one. Two, five, five. One, six, five, five! It was the fives that won it for us, of course. I’ve had a feeling this was going to happen all week!”
 
“How much did you say?”
 
“Twenty thousand, for God’s sake! Five each. I’ll have to ring the others. Let’s get together at Freddy’s this evening—dammit, a party in Capernaum is called for!”
 
“Five thousand . . . ?” said Leverkuhn, but Wauters had already hung up.
 
He remained standing for a while with the receiver in his hand, feeling dizzy. Five thousand guilders? He blinked carefully a few times, and when his eyes started to focus again they turned automatically to look at the wedding photograph on the bureau. The one in the gold frame. They settled gradually on Marie-Louise’s round, milk-fresh face. Her dimples and corkscrew curls. A warm wind in her hair. Glitter in her eyes.
 
That was then, he thought. She was a stunner in those days. Nineteen forty-eight. As tasty as a cream cake! He took out his handkerchief and blew his nose. Scratched himself a little tentatively in the crotch. It was different nowadays . . . but that’s the way it is with women . . . early blossoming, childbirth, breast-feeding, weight gain . . . reluctance. It was sort of in the nature of things. Different with men, so very different.
 
He sighed and went out of the bedroom. Continued his train of thought, even though he didn’t really want to. That seemed to happen often nowadays. Men, oh yes, they were still up for it much longer, that was the big difference . . . that damned big difference. Mind you, it evened itself out toward the end. Now, well into the autumn of his life, he rarely got the urge anymore, it had to be admitted. That applied to both of them.
 
But what else could you expect? Seventy-two and sixty-nine. He’d heard about people who could keep going for longer than that, but as far as he was concerned it was probably all over and done with, he’d just have to make the best of it.
 
There was the odd little twitch now and then, though, which he preferred to do without. A vague reminder of days long past, no more than a memory, a sad recollection.
 
But that’s the way it was. A little twitch that he could have done without. He flopped down over the kitchen table again. Five thousand! My God! He tried to think. Five thousand guilders! But it was hard to pin down those butterflies fluttering in his stomach. What the hell could he do with that amount of money?
 
A car? Hardly. It would probably be enough for a pretty decent secondhand model, and he had a driver’s license; but it was ten years since he’d sat at the wheel, and he hadn’t had any pressing desire to get out and see the world for a long time now.
 
Nor did he prefer an expensive vacation. It was like Palinski used to say: he’d seen most things and more besides.
 
A better television set?
 
No point. The one they had was only a couple of years old, and in any case, he used it only as something to sit in front of and fall asleep.
 
A new suit?
 
For his own funeral? No, the first thing to stick its head over the parapet inside his mind was that there was nothing he really needed. Which no doubt said a lot about what a miserable old grump he’d become. Couldn’t even work out how to spend his own money any longer. Couldn’t be bothered. What a joke!
 
Leverkuhn slid the newspaper to one side and poured himself another cup of coffee with a dash of gin.
 
That was surely something he could allow himself ? Another cup? He listened to the pigeons as he sipped his coffee. Maybe that was how he should deal with the situation? Allow himself a few things? Buy an extra round or two at Freddy’s. More expensive wines. A decent bite to eat at Keefer’s or Kraus.
 
Why not? Live a bit of the good life for a year or two.
 
Now the phone rang again. Palinski, of course.
 
“Dammit, a party in Capernaum is called for tonight!”
 
The very same words as Wauters. How odd that he wasn’t even capable of thinking up his own swearwords. After his opening remark he roared with laughter on the phone for half a minute, then fi nished off by yelling something about how the wine would be flowing at Freddy’s.
 
 “. . . half past six! White shirt and new tie, you old devil!”
 
And he hung up. Leverkuhn observed his newlywed wife again for a while, then returned to the kitchen. Drank up the rest of the coffee and belched. Then smiled.
 
He smiled at last. After all, five thousand was five thousand.
 
***
Bonger, Wauters, Leverkuhn, and Palinski.
 
They were a long-standing, ancient quartet. He had known Bonger and Palinski since he was a boy. Since they were at school together at the Magdeburgska, and the wartime winters in the cellars on Zuiderslaan and Merdwick. They had drifted apart for a few decades in the middle of their lives, naturally, but their paths had crossed once again in their late middle age.
 
Wauters had joined them later, much later. One of the lone gents who hung out at Freddy’s, Herr Wauters. Moved there from Hamburg and Frigge and God only knows where else. He had never been married (the only one of the quartet who had managed to avoid that, he liked to point out—although he now shared the bachelor state with both Bonger and Palinski)—and he was probably the loneliest old man you could possibly imagine. Or at least, that’s what Bonger used to confi de in them, strictly between friends of course. It was Bonger who had gotten to know him fi rst, and introduced him into their circle. A bit of a gambler as well, this Wauters, if you could believe the rumors he spread somewhat discriminately about himself, that is. But now he restricted himself to the soccer pools and the lottery. The horses nowadays were nothing but drugged-up donkeys, he used to maintain with a sigh, and the jockeys were all greedy pricks. And as for cards? Well, if you’d lost nearly twelve hundred on a full house, huh, let’s face it—it was about bloody time you took things easy in your old age!
 
According to Benjamin Wauters.
 
Bonger, Wauters, Leverkuhn, and Palinski.
 
The other evening Palinski had worked out that their combined age came to 292, and so if they could hang on for another couple of years, they could look forward to celebrating their three hundredth anniversary at the turn of the century. Christ Almighty, that wasn’t something to be sneered at!
 
Palinski had patted Fröken Gautiers’s generously proportioned bum and informed her of that fact as well, but Fröken Gautiers had merely snorted and stated that she would have guessed four hundred.
 
But in reality these round figures had no significance at all, because this Saturday was the last day of Waldemar Leverkuhn’s life. As already said.
 
***
Marie-Louise arrived with the bags of groceries just as he was on his way out.
 
“Where are you going?”
 
“Out.”
 
“Why?”
 
“To buy a tie.” There was a clicking noise from her false teeth, twice, as always happened when she was irritated by something. Tick, tock.
 
“A tie?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“Why are you going to buy a tie? You already have fifty.”
 
“I’ve grown tired of them.”
 
She shook her head and pushed her way past him with the bags. The smell of kidney floated into his nostrils.
 
“You don’t need to cook a meal tonight.”
 
“Eh? What do you mean by that?”
 
“I’m eating out.”
 
She put the bags on the table.
 
“I’ve bought some kidney.”
 
“So I’ve noticed.”
 
“Why have you suddenly decided to eat out? I thought we were going to have an early meal—I’m going to Emmeline’s this evening, and you’re supposed to be going—”
 
“To Freddy’s, yes. But I’m going to have a bite to eat out as well. You can put it in the freezer. The kidney, that is.”
 
She screwed up her eyes and stared at him.
 
“Has something happened?”
 
He buttoned up his overcoat.
 
“Not that I know of. Like what?”
 
“Have you taken your medicine?”
 
He didn’t reply.
 
“Put a scarf on. It’s windy out there.”
 
He shrugged and went out.
 
Five thousand, he thought. I could spend a few nights in a hotel.
 
***
Wauters and Palinski were also wearing new ties, but not Bonger.
 
Bonger never wore a tie, had probably never owned one in his life, but at least his shirt was fairly clean. His wife had died eight years ago, and nowadays it was a matter of getting by as best he could—with regard to shirts and everything else.
 
Wauters had reserved a table in the restaurant area, and they started with champagne and caviar as recommended by Palinski, apart from Bonger, who declined the caviar and ordered lobster tails in a sauternes sauce.
 
“What’s got into you old devils this evening?” Fröken Gautiers wondered incredulously. “Don’t tell me you’ve sold your prostates to some research institute.”
 
But she took their orders without more ado, and when Palinski patted her bottom as usual she almost forgot to fend off his rheumatic hand.
 
“Your very good health, my friends!” proposed Wauters at regular intervals.
 
“Let the party in Capernaum commence!” Palinski urged at even more regular intervals.
 
For Christ’s sake, I’m sick and fed up with these idiots, Leverkuhn thought.
 
***
By about eleven Wauters had told them eight or nine times how he had bought the lottery ticket. Palinski had begun to sing “Oh, those sinful days of youth” about as frequently, breaking off after a line and a half because he couldn’t remember the words. Bonger’s stomach had started acting up. For his part, Waldemar Leverkuhn established that he was probably even more drunk than he’d been at the Oktoberfest in Grünwald fifteen years ago. Or was it sixteen?
 
Whatever, it was about time to head home.
 
If only he could find his shoes, that is. He’d been sitting in his stockinged feet for the last half hour or so. He had realized this, somewhat to his surprise, when he had made his way to the bathroom to pee; but no matter how much he fished around for them under the table with his feet, he didn’t get a bite.
 
This was a damned nuisance. He could smell that Bonger’s stomach had spoken once more, and when Palinski started singing yet again, he realized that his search needed to be more systematic.
 
He coughed by way of creating a diversion, then ducked down discreetly, but unfortunately caught the edge of the tablecloth as he collapsed onto the floor. The chaos that ensued made him reluctant to leave his temporary exile under the table. Especially as he could see no sign of his shoes.
 
“Leave me alone, damn you!” he growled threateningly. “Fuck off and leave me in peace!”
 
He rolled over onto his back and pulled down the rest of the tablecloth and all the glasses and crockery. From the surrounding tables came a mixed chorus of roars of masculine laughter and horrified feminine shrieks. Wauters and Palinski offered well-meaning advice, and Bongers weighed in with another stink bomb.
 
Then Fröken Gautiers and Herr Van der Valk and Freddy himself made an appearance; and ten minutes later Waldemar Leverkuhn was standing on the sidewalk outside, in the rain, complete with both overcoat and shoes. Palinski and Wauters went off in a taxi, and Bonger asked right away if Leverkuhn might like to share one with him.
 
Most certainly not, you bloody skunk! Leverkuhn thought; and he must have said so as well because Bonger’s fist hovered threateningly under his nose for a worrying second: but then both the hand and its owner set off along Langgracht.
 
Touchy as usual, Leverkuhn thought as he started walking in more or less the same direction. The rain was getting heavier. But it didn’t worry him, not in the least. Despite being drunk, he felt on top of the world and could walk in a more or less straight line. It was only when he turned onto the slope leading to the Wagner Bridge that he slipped and fell over. Two women who happened to be passing, probably whores from the Zwille, helped him to his feet and made sure he was on steadier ground in Zuyderstraat.
 
The rest of the walk home was no problem, and he reached his apartment just as the clock in the Keymer church struck a quarter to twelve.
 
But his wife wasn’t at home yet. Waldemar Leverkuhn closed the door without locking it, left his shoes, overcoat, and jacket in the hall, and crept into bed.
 
Two minutes later he was asleep on his back with his mouth wide open; and when a little later his rasping snores were silenced by a carving knife stabbing twenty-eight times through his neck and torso, it is not clear if he knew anything about it.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 5, 2012

    .Not recommended if you have a fear of old age!!.

    I ordered this book on the title alone only to discover that I had already read it under a different title , THE UNLUCKY LOTTERY ,bought in England few months ago. In future I will be more careful. Maybe if book covers displayed this information the same mistake could be avoided.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2012

    Competent and satisfying

    Competent, suspenseful, and rich in characterization as ever. Nobody said police procedurals have to treat with human evil to the exclusion of human goodness. This one calmly introduces just enough of both, along with existential angst and some unmistakable sexual energy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 23, 2012

    Great

    Very well written and suspenseful.You will definitely enjoy it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 24, 2013

    I've read Steig larsen, Jo Nesbo & now Hakan Nesser. This wi

    I've read Steig larsen, Jo Nesbo & now Hakan Nesser. This will be the first & last of Nesser for me. WAY to slow a read. Almost gave up after 100 pages but went to B&N and read the reviews & kept going. Waste of time. Glad this was a library book & not one I paid for.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Scandinavian authors tend to combine societal questions with do


    Scandinavian authors tend to combine societal questions with dour reasons for crimes to be investigated, and “Munster’s Case” is no exception. Detective Munster has served as a sidekick to the now-sidelined Inspector Van Veeteren, who is on leave, choosing instead to spend his time reading and philosophizing in a bookshop he ostensibly is operating. The novels are an award-winning series in Sweden.

    This book, as one might expect first published in Sweden, begins with four friends winning some money in the lottery and celebrating their good fortune. However, after a lugubrious dinner, the dead body of one of them is found in his bed, stabbed numerous times, and another seems to be missing. It remains for detective Munster and his team to solve the cases, which become more complicated as the investigation progresses. The murdered man’s wife confesses to the deed, but more questions arise when a neighbor also goes missing and is soon found mutilated in a park.

    The author seems to concentrate on the psychological aspects of the detective, rather than the perpetrators (at least until the concluding section, which explains it all): the physical toll on the policeman’s life, the effect on his family, and the like. The plot builds very slowly and develops in keeping with the detective’s character and thought processes. While the solution to the murders is somewhat hackneyed, that fact doesn’t detract from the novel’s over-all merit, and it is recommended.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2012

    loved it.

    another great book in the series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2013

    I watch too much NCIS. (Or at least I did until this year; I can

    I watch too much NCIS. (Or at least I did until this year; I cannot cope with the idea of the show without Ziva.) My favorite television show has rendered me useless in the “waiting game” of crime investigation.  I expect the clues to arrive on time, be duly considered and the murderer dispatched in haste.
    Not so in Münster’s Case. Perhaps the novel should be re-titled to Münster’s Case; a Study in Torpor. For me the novel was a study in patience.
    In every-dripping rain, gloomy Sundays and days and days of ennui, Münster and his team struggle to gather the will and energy to solve a murder, then a disappearance, and another murder in the town unfortunate enough to have these folks as their investigative officers.
    I have the blessing and privilege of having two homicide investigators in my family. If they approached their jobs with as little energy as this pack of public servants they would be without their job post haste.
    I do appreciate that Münster’s Case did portray the tedium of police work and the problems officers face in the field. But I feel the author did not invest enough in his characters to cause us to care about them, or even about the case. Perhaps it’s because he has a weak protagonist. Münster fights for time with his family, is tempted by lust and ultimately succeeds only with the help of his mentor. 
    The book’s conclusion left me feeling gloomy and cross. Perhaps I should watch more NCIS after all.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

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