The Chestnut Man – Soren Sveistrup

If you find one, he’s already found you

I have had this book in my TBR pile for a while and just hadn’t picked it up (all of this being virtual because it’s on my Kindle app, but you know what I mean..) but then the Book God spotted that it existed as a Netflix series.

We have both become fond of police procedurals from Europe and he felt this was definitely one for us, but I put my foot down (not really, it was more of a gentle suggestion) that I would like to read the book first because that is who I am – not something I always do but if I already have the book then I know that if I watch the adaptation I’m not very likely to read the thing which is a bit of a waste.

Anyway, to the Plotmobile!

We are in Copenhagen, classic Scandi-noir territory, and a murderer is leaving little handmade chestnut men alongside his gruesomely mutilated victims. There is a connection to a young girl missing presumed killed the previous year. Our protagonists have to work together to figure out what the dolls mean, how the seemingly random victims are being selected and of course who is committing the crimes (and why).

I enjoyed this very much but it’s fair to say that it has not exactly a formula but there are certain trends that are completely recognisable from other books/TV series in the genre. Sveistrup is the writer of The Killing which was such a sensation back in 2007 – that seems so long ago! – so perhaps this isn’t unexpected, and to me it had a very cinematic quality. What are these trends?

Do we have an influential but vulnerable politician whose role in the story seems straightforward but might be more complicated?

Do we have a pair of detectives thrown together to solve the case but who can barely tolerate each other?

Is one of those detectives a woman with a slightly unconventional private life trying to make her mark in a male-dominated career?

Is the other a disgraced maverick with a tragic past who resents being dumped onto this case while his long-term fate is being settled elsewhere?

Is at least one of them in personal danger as we move towards a solution?

If you answered yes to any or all of these then you are dead right, but like I said above that doesn’t mean that the story isn’t compelling and the solution satisfying and worth your time.

I will be very interested to see how the Netflix series handles this. Recommended.