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Winning the pools gives Ante Valdemar Roos the chance to escape a life that he can’t stand, and a life that seems to be bored with him. Valdemar by just about everybody’s account is quite a dull fellow. His second wife compares him to a couch, his first wife a tepid glass of water. However, he is trapped in a life he simply cannot bear any longer. Married to a nagging wife he doesn’t love, who also comes with two stepdaughters who have no respect for him, and he barely talks to. He finds himself lost in thought, pondering when he started to dislike people. Probably around the same tine he wished he was born a cat.

So, when his numbers, numbers that his departed father used for eight years, numbers that Valdemar had continued to use for over fifty years, all come up in the pools, Valdemar knows that his life has changed instantaneously. He decides not to tell any of his family, and why would you with a family like his, about the win. He also knows immediately what he is going to spend his winnings on. He buys a cozy little cottage way out isolated in the woods. He quits his job and spends his time at this quiet secluded spot. Whatever makes you happy.

Anna is running away from Elvafors. An institution for drug and alcohol addiction. Anna’s mother called the authorities when Anna stole money from her to feed her heroin addiction. Her mother has bouts of depression and mood swings, not so easy to live with, but placing Anna in Elvafors is very much an act of love from Anna’s mother. She loves her deeply and wants her to heal. But Anna wants out, not prepared, or able to last the six to twelve months stay.

Is it serendipity at work that Anna comes across Valdemar’s cottage? Did fate or destiny always have it planned for the two to meet? Regardless of how it happened, fate, destiny, fluke, it happened and the two, despite their vast difference in age form an instantaneous bond. Enjoying each other’s company. However, Anna’s old boyfriend, a psychotic drug dealer, has tracked her down and is coming to get her.

Part two and finally Barbarotti enters the story. You would be forgiven for thinking he is not the main character sometimes. After falling off a roof and landing in a wheelbarrow, Barbarotti is recovering in hospital from a broken leg when Valdemar’s wife, who Barbarotti knew vaguely at school, informs him that her husband is missing and asks for his help. Has Anna’s boyfriend found them in their idyll in the woods? Are they still alive? Will Barbarotti catch the graffiti artist? Haha, yes, I did say graffiti artist. Nesser has a wonderful sense of humour.

Barbarotti and his partner, Eva Backman, struggle to find what has happened because everybody’s description of Valdemar is incongruous to his actions. Everything he has done is the last thing anybody would have expected of him. Who would have expected a dull “couch” of a man to drop everything and disappear from his life? The reader is privy to what has happened, but everybody else is lost in the dark.

Barbarotti nails it succinctly,

“Ultra-dull fifty-nine-year old bales out of his life.”

It makes you wonder how easy it is for misconceptions to arise. Marianne, Barbarotti’s wife, describes Valdemar and Anna as,

“A junkie girl and an old lecher.”

We are quick to judge without knowing the facts and circumstances of a situation. We look for the obvious, discarding the improbable. As part two and three unfold we realize that there is much more to Valdemar and Anna than the simple perceptions and views of their family and friends. Violent acts contained in both their past. We also find that a single instant in time, in a life, can change everything forever.

This is the third novel of the Barbarotti series and is equally as enjoyable as the first two. Just like the first two novels, Nesser captures the “ordinariness” of solving a case. The daily grind of following leads and interviews. The case slowly coming together like a jigsaw puzzle. Very realistic, and very enjoyable to read. Also again, there is that wonderful, witty, but subtle humour, that weaves through Barbarotti’s and Backman’s banter as they work. These two characters are a joy to read.

Håkan Nesser is a Swedish author and teacher who has written a number of successful crime fiction novels. He has won Best Swedish Crime Novel Award three times, and his novel Carambole won the Glass Key award in 2000. His books have been translated from Swedish into numerous languages.

Håkan Nesser was born and grew up in Kumla, and has lived most of his adult life in Uppsala. His first novel was published in 1988, but he worked as a teacher until 1998 when he became a full-time author. In August, 2006, Håkan Nesser and his wife Elke moved to Greenwich Village in New York.


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