Søren Sveistrup, creator and scriptwriter of the successful Danish TV series The Killing, has just published his debut novel The Chestnut Man. If you enjoyed the TV drama, you will probably enjoy this book, as it contains many similar elements – police procedural, psychological thriller, political and social realism and interesting characters. Sveistrup has succeeded in making a brilliant book debut, packed with suspense and action.
The Chestnut Man opens on the day Rosa Hartung, the Danish Minister for Social Affairs , returns to work a year after her 12-year-old daughter went missing. On the same day, in a quiet Copenhagen suburb, a young mother is found brutally murdered, with one hand cut off. Above her hangs a small doll made of chestnuts.
Young and ambitious detective Naia Thulin and burned-out investigator Mark Hess are assigned the case, but they soon discover another woman brutally murdered. This time both her hands have been cut off. And there is another chestnut figure. Thulin and Hess suspect that these murdered women are connected to the missing daughter of the minister, and they have to work against the clock to stop the killer from striking again.
The novel is set mainly in Copenhagen, during the autumn/winter season, which creates a dark, gloomy and mysterious atmosphere. It is disturbing and grisly at times, with quite strong descriptions of child abuse and a brutal killer, but it definitely keeps your attention from the first chapter to the last.
The two protagonists, Thulin and Hess, have an interesting relationship, since neither want to work with each other or be on the case. They spend most of the time investigating the murders separately, but little-by-little they realize that their different styles compliment each other. The development of their characters and their relationships gives an extra dimension to the novel, so I really hope there will be more books featuring Thulin and Hess.