Book Review: The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup
By Weston OchseSeptember 4, 2019
The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup—the creator of the hit television show The Killing—is a gripping Nordic noir thriller about a serial killer named the Chestnut Man and the detectives desperate to stop him.
When I saw that the creator of the Scandinavian television drama The Killing was writing a novel, I knew I was in for a ride. I watched the American version and the original version and was blown away. So when The Chestnut Man came out, I was sure I had to read it—and I’m happy I did.
To say that Nordic noir is quickly becoming my favorite genre is an understatement. Maybe it’s because I live in the American Southwest where temperatures are now above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Or maybe it’s the sardonic humor that seems to be the foundation of living in a harsh native environment that is at the heart of Nordic noir. Although both are true, it’s the latter that has me eager to read more of Sveistrup’s work.
The Chestnut Man is a serial killer novel with a female lead as complicated and as genuine as Sveistrup wrote in The Killing: Naia Thulin of the Major Crimes Division. Her personal life is a mess, and her professional life is filled with unconditional stress—not the least being a partner recently foisted upon her from Interpol, one Mark Hess. It is in their interplay and juxtaposition that I find most of my pleasure. Although different in their methods and constantly at odds, they each come to appreciate the other’s differences and what they bring to the case.
Thulin and Hess are chasing a serial killer dubbed the Chestnut Man due to the little dolls made from chestnuts left at all of the crimes. The stunning revelation of the fingerprint of a year-long dead girl on the chestnuts becomes the driving force of all the novel’s actors.
The novel is lengthy but never feels long as it shifts from player to player. Like a season of television, The Chestnut Man provides views of the crimes and the lives of all the characters as it teases us into wondering what will happen next. With wonderfully detailed exposition and character development, I found myself caring for the entire cast, especially when they began to meet their demises.
To talk about the plot would be to spoil the surprise. I will say that between the characterization and the sense of Danish place—with the dying leaves and the snow-covered roads—I was firmly placed in the embrace of a master storyteller, one who I am confident will deliver the emotional goods in every story. The Chestnut Man was as successful for me as The Killing. I’m looking forward to what Sveistrup will provide us next.