Hakan Nesser- Swedish literary giant

The author Hakan Nesser

Hakan Nesser was born in 1950 on the 21st of February in Kumla, Sweden. Hakan was born to mother Mary, a clerk and father Sven August, a farmer. Hakan had no siblings and enjoyed his education attending the local schools, first in Hagaskolan, and then secondary in Kumla. Hakan is married to psychiatrist Elke Nesser. In 2006 they moved to Greenwich village in New York before venturing to London, where they currently reside. Hakan was living the comfortable Swedish life with a career and family, but something inside him was starting to surface.

1988 was the year that Hakan decided to start writing alongside his day job as a secondary school teacher, so he sat down and penned his first novel, Koreografen.

Hakan Nesser would not know how successful his novels, and eventually his series and character Inspector Van Veeteren would become, but his early success gave him the opportunity to give up his day job in 1998 and concentrate on his increasingly triumphant career as a Nordic crime writer.

Van Veeteren the inspector

Inspector Van Veeteren features in 10 novels, which have been adapted into a TV-series. He is around 60 years old, with retirement looming over him. In the first five novels he is employed by the local police force but with a clever twist in the 6th novel Van Veeteren retires and becomes the owner of an antiquarian bookshop, developing a different dimension to how he views cases, how the cases are brought to him and his mentoring of younger detectives.
Hakan is very clever in how he allows the reader to conjure up the setting of the books in their own minds. With the backdrop never being revealed, the reader has to draw their own conclusions as to whether the novels are set in Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands or another Nordic land. This gives the reader something to identify with as Van Veeteren could very easily be crime solving in their home town, wherever that may be.
Inspector Van Veeteren is a character that people can identify with as someone they may know; he is an unassuming, slightly grumpy man who we would walk past in the street, but his dedication to solving crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice is second to none. He is a father to two children Jess and Erich, and can often be found taking time out playing chess or perusing book shops.

Van Veeteren is a stark contrast to the incredible actor who plays him, Sven Wolter, who is an accomplished actor and artist born on 11th January 1934. He has appeared in many films including ‘The Man on the roof’ and ‘Jerusalum’. Sven portrays Van Veeteren in 9 stories on our TV screens from 10 of the novels and brought international recognition to the ever loyal, crime fighting detective.

A new man in town

In 2006 Hakan Nesser brought forth a new detective, with the new series firmly placed in his homeland of Sweden, and the detective Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti being Swedish of Italian descent.

‘Man without Dog’ was the first novel to feature Gunnar Barbarotti. Set in the fictitious town of Kymlinge, we follow this new detective from a new perspective. He is more upbeat, which in turn allows him to look at cases from a different view. But Hakan’s talent of crime writing has not faltered, as this new series is set to be a Nordic Noir success internationally.

‘Man without Dog’ instantly gives us a humorous feel to the story, a family reunion that we can all relate to. Slightly quirky family members that haven’t been seen for some time, hidden family issues unsaid and a hierarchy order being expressed. But it is soon realised that the crime writing genius we have become so familiar with from the Van Veeteren series is still in top form, as twists and turns come in to play alongside the crimes being committed and solved.

Four more novels are available in the quintet series of Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti, including ‘A completely different story’ and ‘The tale of Mr Roos’. Hakan Nesser has penned other books in different genres alongside his crime novels and each one has brought its own success.



So just what brought Hakan Nesser back to setting his latest series in his home country? Where does his inspiration hail from?

Hakan Nesser spent most of his adult life in Uppsala, which is the fourth largest city in Sweden.

Uppsala is only 40 minutes away from Stockholm but does not stand in it’s shadow when it comes to culture, the arts and inspiration for many an authors whom use this bustling city as their backdrop.

This is the city where Hakan Nesser would spend many a days walking around, taking inspiration from the contrasting city. With it’s street cafes and restaurants welcoming people to sit down and take a break from their busy lifestyles (which is encouraged and made so easy with all that is on offer), to the natural surroundings that bring in a harmony to the progressive city.

Uppsala is a welcoming city proud of its arts and culture and the artists that it has nurtured. This city has been mentioned in numerous novels recently and is a place that has been put on the map for Nordic Noir fans to visit and follow in the footsteps of their literary heroes.

Uppsala was awarded in 2013 the title ‘National Earth Hour Capital in Earth Hour City Challenge’. But awards are not unknown to all that links to Hakan Nesser.

Hakan Nesser’s awards

  • Hakan Nesser was awarded the ‘Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel’ (Borkmanns point in 1994, Woman with Birthmark 1996)
  • Swedish Radio Short Story Prize in 2006 for the short story “The ordinance” (included in “From Dr. Klimkes horizon”)
  • SNCF’s award for ‘Best French crime novel 2007’ – The Commissioner and the silence.
  • ‘The Ripper Award’ Germany. “Europe’s biggest prize for outstanding crime fiction.” 2010

These are to name but a few. Hakan has been celebrated all around the world, and with ease manages to keep on producing high quality books with poise, sophistication and intrigue that would welcome any virgin Nordic Noir reader to join the fastest growing literary circle that is Scandinavian crime thrillers.
Photo credits: Alexander Cahlenstein, TUUKKA ERVASTI.