Hakan Nesser – The Hour of the Wolf

The Hour of the Wolf has a great premise and an excellent opening.

The premise is that a man accidentally kills a boy when driving home drunk. He hides the body and then embarks on a series of murders in order to cover up the original one. He ends up being blackmailed by a neighbour. He is not a nice guy, but you’d don’t get the sense that he’s a sadistic serial killer.

The novel is a good look at how a terrible mistake and terrible judgement sets in motion horrendous consequences.
In fact, there is an interesting theme running through it, of people feeling they have no choice but to act in particular ways, though in fact they always do – at how people feel the dice are stacked in one direction but in fact it’s not so simple.

There’s a nice twist, too, with one of the victims being related to Van Veeteran, the retired police officer who Nesser’s series of novels has focused on.

The opening of the book is particularly good. Nesser introduces the man as ‘the man who is about to murder someone’, and the boy as ‘the boy who is about to be killed’. And the following pages draw out how it happens.

Strangely, though, I didn’t love this book. In part, that’s because the plot – the hunt for the killer – kind of just runs out. As opposed to a dramatic ending, it was a bit of an anticlimax. And more importantly, the banter between the police officers, which is a big part of the novel, is a bit like other ‘hyper-realist’ crime fiction I’ve read – too obvious, too banal, somehow too much, to such an extent that it takes away from the novel. 

So … an interesting and sometimes gripping book, but a few elements that make it less than it could be.