Nesser sensitively probes the agonies and ecstasies of adolescence, making this an exquisite example of Nordic noir’s ability to reveal the darkest emotional depths beneath a cloudless summer sky.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Nesser’s novel gains in power as it raises difficult questions about memory and morality.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[An] extraordinary tale of intrigue from Sweden’s preeminent crime writer Håkan Nesser…Nesser’s writing is alive with summer heat and the buzzing of cicadas, the whiff of perfume unexplained, and the storm clouds of trouble growing darker as the days and buggy nights fade into one another…” —Jeffrey Mannix, The Durango Telegraph
“The Summer of Kim Novak brings back to life that adolescent quandary of feeling like you know more than the adults around you, but being desperately afraid that you won’t choose the right action to justify the trouble you’re already in.” ―New York Journal of Books
“Nesser has a penetrating eye for the skull beneath the skin.” —The New York Times
“A deft anatomist of character.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“One of the foremost Swedish crime authors.”—The Times
“Nesser is one of the best of the Nordic Noir writers, unafraid of moral ambiguity and excellent at building a brooding atmosphere.”—The Guardian
“Hakan Nesser brings a light touch to tales of appalling crime.”—Daily Telegraph
“Not all Scandinavian crime fiction is gory and gloomy; it can also be lyrical and delicate, soaked in sunshine and surrounded by beautiful welcoming nature, yet with a touch of suspense gently simmering underneath the idyllic surface. Especially when it’s written by Hakan Nesser, one of the Swedish masters of Nordic Noir.”—Crime Review
"Very fine reading...lyrical, decidedly Scandinavian, and endearingly universal." —BookTrib
"Although The Summer of Kim Novak is a heart-warming, sometimes hilarious coming-of-age story, a thread of melancholy and sadness runs through it… you’ll be pleasantly surprised by The Summer of Kim Novak’s warmth and wit." ―Crime Fiction Lover
“A haunting and evocative novel, beautifully written to draw you into another place and time—a true coming-of-age tale with added mystery.”—Liz Loves Books
“Nesser captures the awkwardness of adolescence beautifully.” —A Life in Books
“Swedish kids have it good: this beautiful book is in their curriculum!”—Brigitte
“Not only a brilliant thriller, but also a sensitive and atmospheric portrayal of a coming-of-age adventure.” —Frankfurter Neue Presse
“Nesser writes very emphatically, very clearly and even wittily. A first-class thriller.”—Frankfurter Rundschau
“Every line smells of summer, becoming an adult, and the loss of innocence.” —Focus
Nesser’s novel follows its young narrator through a series of traumatic events over the course of one summer.
When a book begins with the line “I’m going to tell you about a tragic and terrible event that marked my life,” it sets up some high expectations. Nesser balances a good sense of place with a feeling of impending doom, turning nostalgia on its head. Teenage narrator Erik, his friend Edmund, and Erik’s 22-year-old brother, Henry—who’s working on an “unexpected and eerie” novel—spend their summer near an idyllic lake in rural Sweden. The year is 1962, and Erik and Henry’s mother is slowly dying of cancer back in their hometown. Before their departure, in the waning days of the school year, they encountered new substitute teacher Ewa, who looks like the actress Kim Novak and is engaged to Berra, a prominent athlete with a violent streak. Not long after the boys arrive for their summer vacation by the lake, they discover that Henry and Ewa are having an affair. Erik’s warning of terrible things to come and the presence in the narrative of numerous Agatha Christie novels all act as blatant foreshadowing. When Berra turns up dead, that event dramatically shifts the mood of the book. There are a few idioms which, in Vogel’s translation, feel decidedly American in this very Swedish novel, including the phrase "It is what it is," which Erik ponders. As Nesser burrows further into this fictional world, though, as when Erik declares himself part of a clique known as “the anti-soccer crowd,” the novel’s idiosyncrasies become more charming.
While its pacing is uneven, Nesser’s novel gains in power as it raises difficult questions about memory and morality.