Review: The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup

9780241372111.jpgFrom Søren Sveistrup — the writer behind the brilliant Scandinavian crime series The Killing — comes The Chestnut Man, his first novel, which probably should’ve skipped straight to its inevitable television adaptation.

Young detective Naia Thulin and burned-out ex Europol investigator Mark Hess are partnered to handle the investigation of a series of murders distinguished by the presence of ‘chestnut men’ small dolls made of chestnuts at each crime scene. They quickly suspect that the murdered women are linked to the missing daughter of the Minister for Social Affairs, and that they’re working against the clock to catch the killer before he strikes again.

Sounds like the perfect setup for a dark, creepy, Scandi-noir thriller; and some readers will likely think so. But The Chestnut Man suffers from a serious case of bloat — the book doesn’t need all of its 500 pages — and coruscates with far too much bloody violence for my tastes. Seriously, if I never read about an amputation again, it’ll be too soon. But even putting this aside, Sveistrup bounces between far too many characters who don’t deserve the spotlight. With a tighter focus on the two investigators, who  share such little chemistry despite the author’s assurance they’ve formed an inseparable bond, The Chestnut Man would’ve been a taut, pacey affair. Instead, its constant jumps to different personnel which works on the screen far better than in prose frustrated me; I could feel the author attempting to orchestrate my enjoyment, and it’s never a good thing when you can detect the presence of the writer.

So, this was a disappointment. The Chestnut Man felt very much a 10 episode television season sculptured into a serviceable prose thriller. It’s got enough thrust to keep the pages turning, but its characters are mere sketches; waiting for skilled actors to give them life on the screen.

ISBN: 9780241372111
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 512
Imprint: Michael Joseph Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 26-Oct-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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