The Unlucky Lottery

The Unlucky Lottery

Four friends celebrate winning the lottery. Just hours later, one of them – Waldemar Leverkuhn – is found in his home, stabbed to death. With Chief Inspector Van Veeteren on sabbatical, working in a second hand bookshop, the case is assigned to Inspector Münster. But when another member of the lottery group disappears, as well as Leverkuhn’s neighbour, Münster appeals to Van Veeteren for assistance. Soon Münster will find himself interviewing the Leverkuhn family, including the eldest – Irene – a resident of a psychiatric clinic. And as he delves deeper into the family’s history, he will discover dark secrets and startling twists, which not only threaten the clarity of the case – but also his life . . .

When I began reading in earnest a couple of years ago I never imagined for one minute that among my favourite books to read would be translations; crime yes, translations no. Books set in foreign countries with foreign laws, foreign foods, foreign customs and foreign sounding names. Have I said foreign enough?! I probably have so I’ll move along swiftly! Although I’ve only read one previous novel by Håkan Nesser – The Inspector and The Silence reviewed here – I can safely say that he is already one of my favourite Swedish authors and whenever I get the opportunity to read one of his titles I’ll be sure to grab it with both hands!

The Unlucky Lottery, once again set in Sorbinowo – a forested Swedish lake side town – is an enjoyable romp that explores not only murder but deeply hidden secrets, secrets that have stayed undiscovered and undisclosed for decades until one pivotal moment causes a ripple effect that changes the lives of all those around it.

In Håkan’s previous book – The Inspector and The Silence – it was driven for the most part by Inspector Van Veeteren, a curious, colourful and enigmatic character that certainly carried the book. Towards the end of that book we discover that Van Veeteren has decided to take a sabbatical and work in an antique book store much to the chagrin of his fellow officers. The Unlucky Lottery follows on from this decision, months down the line in fact, and Van Veeteren is comfortable, relaxed and still enjoying the life of leisure, rolling his own cigarettes and sitting in a comfortable chair staring at antique books – getting to know his books he calls it.

In fact, Van Veeteren plays but a cameo role in this book which in turn allows another character to step forward and bask in the limelight – Inspector Münster. Although out of sight, Van Veeteren is never out of mind and the police officers often refer to the great master and comment on how he would approach a particular suspect and pondering what he would do in their shoes.

That was a bare-faced lie but it was the line he’d decided to take. Sometimes it was necessary to take a short cut. He was reminded of a Persian saying he’d picked up somewhere. A good lie travels from Baghdad to Damascus while the truth is looking for its sandals.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book – apart from being a very quick read – was the storyline. Waldemar Leverkuhn is out celebrating a lottery win with his fellow winners and the next day he’s found brutally stabbed to death in his bed. That same day another member of his small syndicate – and close friend – mysteriously goes missing. It’s all very baffling for the police and they never quite get to grips with the curious events. I have to admit that I never saw the twist coming at the end and the way Nesser crafted this story out of seemingly nothing was terrific. I did find myself wondering where he was going with the story but it all made sense in the end. Nesser has this seemingly natural ability to tie things up with consummate ease.

Another plus for me was the way he portrayed the police officers. They come across as amateurish and as with his previous book I wondered if they would ever catch those responsible for the crimes committed. I’m not sure if these scenes are supposed to come across as humorous but they did make me chuckle at their ineptitude and lack of urgency.

So there we have it, another cracking title from the Swedish master Håkan Nesser, it just goes to prove that there’s something other than Swedish Meatballs being exported out of Sweden worth getting your teeth around. Roll on his next title!

Published by Pan, The Unlucky Lottery is available in Paperback and Kindle

  • ISBN-10: 0330512587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330512589
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