Title: The Chestnut Man.
Writer(s): Søren Sveistrup.
Format: Advance Review Copy.
Release Date: September 3rd 2019.
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
There’s always a gnawing fear in me when a screenwriter decides to write a novel for the first time in their life. The result has often been the same, the book reads like a script and not an instant is enjoyable. Thankfully, there are individuals out there with a talent to process their thoughts into the appropriate format, with the help of proficient editors that assure that the final product is in tip-top shape. Hoping that my first foray in Nordic thrillers will pan out a success, I went all out and gave a known Danish screenwriter the chance to prove me wrong with his debut novel. Søren Sveistrup is an internationally acclaimed scriptwriter for the TV series The Killing (2011-2014) and is also the one who wrote the screenplay for the movie The Snowman (2017) based on Jo Nesbø’s novel of the same name. He now embarks on a new journey as he writes his first novel, already announced to become a Netflix TV series.
What is The Chestnut Man about? The story kicks off with a brutal murder sequence, offering a glimpse into the terrorized mind of a victim running away from who might only be the serial killer that will be tracked down in this case. Coincidentally the veteran detective Mark Hess from Europol is temporarily relieved of his duty to join the homicide squad in Copenhagen while the heat is quietly taken off his back for all the trouble he has caused in the past. In this team, detective Naia Thulin is assigned to work with Mark Hess although she struggles to rekindle her lost passion for her job while she has to deal with some family business as a single mother to her young daughter. Together, they are tasked in solving inhuman acts of murderers until they discover a little chestnut man holding a clue that surprisingly links it to a case from the past and sends them searching for a merciless killer.
Intertwined in a political web of secrecy, the story offers a delicious blend of psychological thriller and police procedural as it invites you to foresee the evolution of this case and identify the predator behind some of the most gruesome deaths in history. Written in an effortless writing style that allows the prose to be captivating and insightful, Søren Sveistrup does a fantastic job in splitting his debut novel into extremely short chapters that have you flipping through the pages at an uncanny pace. With a relatively incredible number of point of views included in this story, it was, however, easy to see that the story would perfectly translate into a television series but would leave readers a bit winded by the constant addition and switching of perspectives.
The chemistry between the two detectives is also a remarkable driving force in this novel. While Mark Hess arrives with a lot of baggage and a lack of motivation, convinced that his reinstatement will occur at any moment, Naia Thulin embraces a cold and immutable approach with her new partner, convinced that she won’t let him get in her way no matter what he’s resolved to do during his time in this homicide team. Together, their flawed personalities offer a gritty and impressive dynamic duo. The setting also contributes to the eerie and suspenseful atmosphere that persists throughout the story. The insane deaths spread throughout the case also adds a singular and deadly overtone to this thriller, coupled with some red herrings to keep the intrigue intact until the revelations start accumulating in the second half. It’s safe to say that consistency and coherence is maintained through and through here.
The Chestnut Man is a bleak and thrilling Nordic noir debut novel that brings to light Søren Sveistrup’s ability to master the medium and paint a beautiful and shocking canvas featuring a pair of flawed detectives pitted against a resolute madman.
Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me a copy for review!