Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Weeping Girl (Inspector Van Veeteren, #8)The Weeping Girl by Håkan Nesser
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am unable to understand - probably because of my fuzzy geezer brain - why people would want to read a 500-page book if its contents could be easily packed in 200 pages. Absolute majority of crime novels are about 400-500 pages long, and only selected few of them need that much volume. I figure the length of a crime novel must be dictated by business reasons rather than by the author or by complexity of the plot and thus a typical crime novel is heavily padded to reach what I believe is the contractual volume. Correct me if I am wrong, but I guess the reason for wanting fat books is that readers who pay, say, twenty-something dollars for a newly published book, need to "get their money back", right? Still, it remains a mystery to me why people would want to waste their time on reading the padding in a novel, the silly filler stuff, the irrelevant fluff. Also, just imagine the massive waste of paper.

To me, authors who use 470 pages for a story that could be well presented on 200-250 pages, commit a major sin. They steal my time, and time is the only thing that I am sure to never get back. I generally refuse to read crime novels that are significantly longer than about 200 pages, and prefer to read ones that are shorter than 200 pages. I would never pick "The Weeping Girl" by Håkan Nesser if not for the fact that he has been one of my favorite authors of crime novels (I even rated one of his books with five stars, a rating reserved solely for masterpieces of the genre). I am still angry at the author for forcing me to read 470 pages, whereas the plot, the characterizations, and even the psychological and sociological observations could easily fit in half that volume. The rating reflects my anger. I like the plot, I like the writing, I totally love one fragment of the novel, but - on principle - I cannot rate the book high. OK, now that I vented my anger, a few words about the novel.

The plot alternates between 1983 and 1999. Winnie Maas dies in July 1983, "because she changed her mind." It is a pretty good first sentence, one that the reader can appreciate at the end. In July 1999 Detective Inspector Eva Moreno is sent to a small town of Lejnice to interview a criminal who is incarcerated there. She meets a girl on the train (the title "weeping girl") who tells her a curious story. Inspector Moreno gets interested and the connections between the current time and the events of 1983 slowly unfold.

Contrary to the blurb on the cover, it is not an Inspector van Veeteren novel. For me, it is better as I dislike series, but other readers may feel cheated. I mean the retired detective shows up at one point, but it is just a token appearance, a fragment of the padding in the novel.

I absolutely love the short fragment of the novel where two kids take advantage of the fact that the world is round. Extremely funny! I was laughing hysterically when reading the passage. There is also a mention of a Trabant that would not start. 50 years ago I used to ride in a Trabant and, indeed, it frequently would not start.

Mr. Nesser's story again takes place in a fictitious country, somewhere in Northern Europe - the names are a mixture of German, Dutch, and Swedish, with a smidgen of Polish (Lejnice, Sorbinowo, Wielki, etc.)

There is so much I like about this book: the fictitious country, no van Veeteren, solid plot, interesting and life-like characters, funny fragments. Yet the novel is twice too long, so the rating is only

Three stars.

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