The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup (tr. by Caroline Waight) #BookReview #BlogTour

One Tuesday in October, Rosa Hartung is returning to her job as minister for social affairs following a year’s leave of absence – granted after the dramatic disappearance of her twelve- year-old daughter. Linus Bekker, a mentally ill young man, confessed to her killing but is unable to remember where he buried the various parts of her dismembered corpse. 
On the same day Rosa returns to Parliament, a young single mother is found brutally murdered at her home in the suburbs of Copenhagen - she’s been tortured, and one hand has been cut off. Thulin and Hess, the detectives sent to investigate the crime, arrive at the address to find a figure made of chestnuts hanging from a playhouse nearby. 
When yet another woman is murdered-this time with both hands missing-and another chestnut figure is found, Thulin and Hess begin to suspect a connection with the Hartung case. But what is it? 
Thulin and Hess are racing against the clock because it's clear that the murderer is on a mission that is far from over... 

I'm absolutely thrilled to be kicking off my 2019 reviews with The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup. Many thanks to the author and to Jenny Platt from Michael Joseph for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.
I'm probably one of the few people in the country who didn't watch The Killing on television but over the past few years I've fallen in love with Scandinavian crime fiction so couldn't resist The Chestnut Man - particularly after I set eyes on the creepy front cover. At over 500 pages it's a substantial read but the short chapters and pacy action meant I found myself racing through the book - it was only too easy to read 'just a couple more chapters' before bedtime! This complex mystery is never less than compelling with two protagonists whose contrasting personalities provide an intriguing backdrop to the hunt for a serial killer.
Naia Thulin is an ambitious young officer who has been frustrated by the tedious assignments she has been given during her nine months at the Major Crimes Division and is ready to move on to NC3, the department for cyber crime. Meanwhile, Mark Hess is a jaded investigator from Europol who has been relegated to his former division; partnered with Thulin, he intends to just mark time until he can return to the Hague. As it becomes abundantly clear that they are on the hunt for a serial killer, they are both drawn into a complicated case which may be linked to the apparently solved murder of the daughter of politician, Rosa Hartung. As the body count rises, the media's interest in the investigation means there is political pressure to apprehend the killer without causing any embarrassment to the Division. The multilayered narrative switches between Hess and Thulin, and at times follows some of the lesser characters which ensures the reader has a fascinating insight into the different minds of those affected by the case.
This is a plot-driven novel where not a word is wasted but the pertinent descriptions of the Danish autumn create an oppressively gloomy atmosphere. Søren Sveistrup's scriptwriting skills are put to good use here, with an almost rollercoaster episodic feeling to parts of the book where he builds the tension to almost unbearable levels before allowing the reader some respite and a few quieter moments before the next suspense-filled scene. There came a point about halfway through the book where I realised I was holding my breath as that intense sense of creeping dread that somebody else is there is utilised with great effect. With plenty of equally nailbiting moments still to come, this is most definitely not the novel for those of a more nervous disposition!
The killer is clearly a seriously damaged individual but they consistently manage to stay one step ahead of the police, with their calling card of a chestnut man and the concurrent mutilation of their victims making for disturbing scenes. There are dark themes explored throughout the book and it's far from an easy read; some parts of the story are viscerally upsetting and the violence is brutally graphic. That said, it never feels gratuitous and instead is a sharp and perceptive look at how the failings of bureaucracy and of society at large can lead to devastating tragedy. There are moments of poignancy too, particularly featuring the Hartungs who have spent the past year desperately trying to accept the loss of their daughter, only to have the rug pulled from under their feet once again. As expected in a thriller of this calibre, there are several twists and turns along the way, with some shocking revelations that both drive forward and misdirect the case (and the reader!). It all leads to a breathtakingly tense conclusion that is completely satisfying yet left me wanting more from this terrific crime writer. I predict The Chestnut Man will be a huge success  - and deservedly so. I thoroughly recommend it and can't wait to read more from Søren Sveistrup in the future.

The Chestnut Man will be published in the UK on 10th January 2019 and can be pre-ordered from the following;
Amazon UK
Google Play

Don't miss the chance to see what some of my fellow bloggers think too - details of the blog tour are below.

About the Author
Søren Sveistrup is an internationally acclaimed scriptwriter of the Danish television phenomenon The Killing which won various international awards and sold in more than a hundred countries. 
Søren Sveistrup (born 1968) holds a master of Literature and History from the University of Copenhagen and has graduated as script writer from the Danish Film School.