The Chestnut Man

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

I was a HUGE fan of The Killing, so when I had the chance to read The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup, I jumped at the chance! An amazing setting in Copenhagen (I love it there), and it just did not disappoint!
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This book is fast paced with an engaging storyline. It’s great for all fans of translated Swedish mysteries. . There is a  lot of detail and the characters are well developed . It keeps you turning pages and the unexpected occurs frequently.
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Søren Sveistrup's "The Chestnut Man," translated from the Danish by Caroline Waight, is a gruesome thriller in which men, women, and children are brutally slain and, in some case, mutilated. The book opens at a crime scene in 1989. A veteran police officer, Marius Larsen, responds to what he thinks is a routine complaint, but when he arrives at his destination, he sees things that would turn the stomach of even the most hardened professional. Among those who will be affected by this tragedy are the Danish Social Affairs Minister, Rosa Hartung, whose twelve-year-old daughter disappeared a year earlier; Mark Hess, a former employee of Europol who was relieved of his duties and reassigned; and Naia Thulin, an intuitive, savvy, and conscientious detective in Copenhagen. When she is ordered to partner with Hess, she takes a dislike to her messy, apathetic, and uncommunicative new colleague.

This intense and macabre novel has a plot similar to many that we have seen before. An unidentified perpetrator is stalking and targeting women for death. When he strikes, he leaves behind a "chestnut man," a makeshift doll, as a kind of calling card. Naia and Mark might not be fond of one another, but as events progress, both become obsessed with stopping the carnage. Their boss, Nylander, who is the head of the Major Crimes Division, is none too happy, because against his wishes, Thulin and Hess persist in dredging up the past and looking into sensitive matters that Nylander would prefer to sweep under the rug.

Sveistrup pulls no punches in his critique of people like Nylander, who are more interested in their image than in the search for truth. Hess is an intriguing character with a past that torments him, but he proves to be a smart, determined, and courageous sleuth who is unafraid to step on the toes of important people to get to the bottom of a bewildering mystery. Unfortunately, at over five hundred pages, this book is too long and meandering, with an abundance of red herrings that cloud the investigation and allow the murderer to continue his killing spree. Although it generates a great deal of suspense and angst, "The Chestnut Man" is not for the faint-hearted. The author describes in graphic detail horrendous acts of torture and abuse. In addition, while the countless hours that Hess and Thulin spend in their eagerness to connect the dots eventually pay off, this macabre work of fiction ends on a sinister note that could foreshadow even more bloodshed to come.
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The cover of this book is a bit dark and ominous.  It draws the eye.  Flip the book over and it reads:

If you find one, he's already found you.

The Chestnut Man.

Come Play.

( Eyes bulge.  Shiver down spine.)  I am hooked.

Gah, chills.  The kind of chills that make you want to dance the hebbie jebbies away.

Whew!  This book was a bit nerve racking in a good, I am scared way.  I kept whispering to myself "This is just a book.  This is just a book.  This is just a book."

Once the story settled  and the hunt for "The Chestnut Man" began, I settled right into this captivating psychological thriller.  Written by the creator of the brilliant Netflix series, "The Killing," author Sore Sveistrup has done it again.  This book delivers all the elements of a phenomenal dark crime story.  It is haunting, engaging, and wonderfully crafted.  A perfect read for cool and crisp autumn night to come.
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If you like Scandi-Noir stories (I love them) in books, in film, or on television, you will enjoy this new story from Soren Svelstrup, the creator of the television series, "The Killing." Copenhagen is the place, and its characters are detectives who work in Homicide for the Murder Squad. The key figures are Naia Thulin, and Mark Hess, a temp from Europol who waits for the verdict on an investigation of one of his slip-ups in Bucharest.

The plot is gory, murders of women with amputated limbs. As the detectives piece together each crime, it becomes clear that there is a serial killer on a mission. The murdered women all have a history with Danish Child Services about neglect in parenting. Additionally, a little toy found at each scene, a homemade toy called a chestnut man, makes it clear the killer is sending a message.

The novel becomes complex when Rosa Hartung, Minister for Social Affairs, returns to work after an extended leave when her daughter, 12-year-old daughter, Kristine, was kidnapped one year ago. Rosa remains hopeful that her daughter is alive even though Linus Bekker claims he killed Kristine and resides in a criminal psychiatric facility. Meanwhile, Rosa receives several death threats. Her marriage to Linus is at the breaking point. He wants to move on, and Rosa hangs on, by a thread, to the idea that Kristine is alive.

The murders stack up, and Thuil and Hess cannot get a handle on any suspects. They give it their all and SS creates an intricate suspense story where the answer seems just within reach but a murderer stays one step ahead of us. I loved this gruesome story and the relationships developed by the characters. As the story unfolded, I thought about how one must be wary of trusting everyone in your life.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper for the ARC of this excellent book (September 3rd).
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The Chestnut Man is a suspenseful thriller that will keep you reading until the final page. Sveistrup hits it out of the park!
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The Chestnut Man takes so many twists and turns in this dark, disturbing crime novel. It is well written, smart, disturbing and a fast paced read. Leave the lights on!

**I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book.
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If you like the shows The Killing (by this author) or Hinterland, I think you will love this book.  A great psychological thriller showing the darkness that can be found in people, it also is a great police procedural.  Thulin and Hess are great as the investigators and the mystery surrounding a recent horrific murder and how it could be tied to the disappearance of a politicians daughter years ago is intriguing.  Great Read!
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This intense Danish mystery/thriller completely delivered. By turns heart-pounding and plot-twisty, the novel had me captivated and, really, I couldn't finish it quickly enough. I've heard of The Killing but hadn't watched it yet - I'll be putting it on my list now!
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I really enjoy this genre of Scandinavian mysteries, so I am more than a bit biased but this is a great book. I am looking for other books by this author that are published in English, so that I can continue reading  his work. Great character development, well developed plot, and doesn't use the cliche literary mechanisms that are so popular with American artists.
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Serial killer fiction is one of my favorite subgenres, despite the fact that very few of these books reach a level of exceptional storytelling. But when it's done right, there's no better read for me.

Unfortunately, The Chestnut Man isn't done right.

I often feel as if there is some outline for writers of the genre entitled "How to Write the Typical Cliché Serial Killer Novel" of which they all follow and for some reason that's enough for the masses.

That's not enough for me.

The Chestnut Man follows this outline to a T. I'll sum it up for you:
Bad cop, good cop in love/hate relationship work under the threat of their up-and-coming superior who is more concerned with his career than actually solving a crime. Enter serial killer, throw in some gory scenes for distraction. Sprinkle in a few red herrings even though the killer is pretty obvious to most astute readers. Wrap everything up with bad cop saving good cop from killer but not before killer vomits the story of his entire friggin life as way of explaining why he started chopping people up as a hobby. Good cop and bad cop live happily ever after (fade to black). 

2.5 Stars ⭐

If you're not a frequent reader of this genre then I've no doubt that this one will be a sufficient and engrossing story. If you wish to compare it to other books with more depth and less cliché, I can recommend a few: 
Silence of the Lambs
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Collector
and a more recent addition, The Butterfly Garden. 

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for the advance reader copy of  "The Chestnut Man" I normally do not read novels set outside of the United States, but wanted to step out of my comfort zone, and kind of break the traditional detective novel tropes in the states. Apparently Mr. Sveistrup wrote a similar television show titled "The Killing' which I have not seen, but will be seeking out now that I have finished his excellent Novel debut. I would describe "The Chestnut Man" as a traditional Serial Killer Thriller, but with top notch writing! Everything is here, characters, two detectives, (yes the butt heads) really good atmosphere and plotting. Can be dark and gruesome at some points, but is about a serial killer that involves forensic details of a... wait for it, no spoilers, a doll left behind at the crime scene. Also forensic details of dead people! Again, wonderful prose and a dark story line make for great Nordic Noir! Thanks! #thechestnutman
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I picked up The Chestnut Man because I heard it was from the creator of the hit show The Killing. The novel is excellent and tells the story of a murderer leaving little handmade chestnut figures at each crime scene. We follow the detectives investigating the murders and beware..the story gets dark! Part police procedural, part crime thriller, readers will be unable to put this one down until the very end. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy dark crime fiction.
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Two detectives, Naia Thulin, a single mother trying to leave major crimes for a cyber crime unit and Mark Hess, a burned-out, disgraced former Europol investigator investigator trying are teamed up to investigate a series of gruesome murders of young mothers. At each murder scene they find a chestnut figurine which ties the crimes to disappearance of a young girl a year ago. The story is intriguing and its characters, especially Hess, are well developed. After several twists that introduce a few potential perpetrators, the story fizzled toward the, rather predictable, end. But, there is hinting of more Hess and Thulin cases in the future.
The book is very well written and will keep your interest until the end. We are adding it to our library collection.
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Wow! I totally loved this book! I have to admit that my hopes were already pretty high going in, because of how much I had enjoyed just the American version of the television show, The Killing (and after this tracking down the Danish version is in my future!). But, this is one of those few times where my hopes were exceeded! 

With short chapters and present tense, this book's immediacy makes it quite easy to just keep the pages turning. The characters have. enough foundation and growth throughout the they all feel authentic (and have my fingers crossed that this won't be the last that we see of them!). There are a few rather heavy-handed moments about clues being overlooked that are sure to frustrate readers, but really, for the most part this is a flawless procedural serial killer thriller that I genuinely loved reading.

It's super thrilling and the plot completely took me by surprise - which seems to get harder and harder as the years pass! I really didn't see these twists coming at all, and I genuinely can't wait until this one is published here so that my dad can read it, too - I am sure that he will have as much fun reading it as I did!
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Thank you to NetGalley for a Kindle ARC of The Chestnut Man.

I was excited when my request was approved because if there's one thing I love about mysteries, its a mystery about a serial killer.

I've never seen The Killing but as the author is the creator of the series, I had high hopes going into The Chestnut Man.

And I wasn't disappointed.

Two mismatched detectives (aren't they always?) named Thulin and Hess are forced to work together to solve a series of grisly and gruesome murders. 

To make matters more baffling, a little chestnut man is left at the scene of each crime.

As Thulin and Hess probe into the lives of the murdered women, clues eventually point to a high powered female politician whose daughter was kidnapped and presumed dead over a year ago.

If you're sensitive or squeamish, this is not the book for you.

There's blood, torture and screaming. 

Also, there are the additional triggers of pedophilia, sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Minus those dark and tragic themes, The Chestnut Man is a formulaic, stereotypical police procedural.

First, Thulin and Hess don't get along. 

Hess is just kicking tires until his superior calls him back to his respectable position at the Hague, having been kicked down to Major Crimes following an act of insubordination.

Thulin is waiting for permission to join the CyberCrimes Unit, a more prominent and prestigious sector of the unit she wants to to be a part of.

Second, because Hess doesn't have a good reputation, when he objects to how the investigation is proceeding and makes valuable and thought provoking comments, his insights are (naturally) disregarded.

Which allows the serial killer to continue killing. Of course.

Third, Hess is an enigma, brooding and moody, smart and competent, as most detectives are characterized in novels. 

Thulin is also not your typical female detective. 

She is forthright, capable and dogged, the single parent of a precocious little girl. She is moody, but in a different way. She has had many lovers and not the type of person to dwell on love and relationships.

Fourth, I figured out who the killer was early on but I kept reading because I wanted to know WHY.

Most of the obstacles the detectives encountered during the case were typical, designed to impede the investigation or cast doubt on Hess' credibility. 

There's the usual bureaucratic politics and the grandstanding superior who knows way less than his detectives who are doing all the heavy lifting.

The writing is solid and the author manages to juggle many characters, keeping all the balls in the air, adding minor expositional details to flesh out each person.

I can't say I liked Thulin and Hess. I didn't dislike or hate them. They were rote characters and believable as far as detectives go.

The story held my interest and I was interested to see how it would end.
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I’m a huge fan of the show The Killing, so when I heard Soren Sveistrup had written a book, I knew I had to read it! 

As the synopsis states, a psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen and at each crime scene he leaves behind a chestnut man made of two chestnuts and matchsticks. What makes this even more shocking is the fingerprint left behind on each chestnut man. The Minister for Social Affair’s daughter had been kidnapped and murdered the year before (though her body was never found), so why would the little girl’s fingerprint be on these chestnut men? 

Detective Thulin and investigator Hess from Europol are sent on a wild goose chase as more victims are found, each with a chestnut man left at the scene of the crime, but each victim also has a limb removed. The first is missing one hand, the second missing if the killer is trying to make a human version of a chestnut man. Thulin and Hess are determined to find the killer and uncover the connection between the victims and the presumed to be dead little girl before it’s too late.

I had my suspicions throughout this book, and as the story came to a conclusion I was white-knuckled, gripping the edge of my seat. I’m glad my suspicions were wrong though. Honestly I was blindsided when the killer was revealed, but seeing how the pieces to the puzzle fit together, it all made sense. 

I really enjoyed this book. At times it felt like the story dragged on a bit, but I love how it all came together in the end. I could definitely see some parallels between the characters in The Killing and The Chestnut Man. Having seen the The Killing beforehand, I had high hopes for this book, and I think I set the bar a little too high, but nevertheless I thought it was a great book and definitely recommend it.
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The Chestnut Man is a big, sprawling, dark and brutal Scandinavian thriller that powers through a complex story of revenge with style, fascinating characters and vivid settings. I read an advanced readers copy of Søren Sveistrup 's heart-pounding novel, courtesy of NetGalley and Harper Collins. I hold them responsible for the loss of a night's sleep. The books needs a warning sticker!

Beginning with a chilling and bloody prelude (attention must be paid), the tangled plot moves quickly after a young woman is found brutally murdered with one of her hands missing. Above her hangs a small doll made of chestnuts. The doll has a mystifying connection to a girl who went missing a year earlier and is presumed dead; the daughter of a politician. Why mystifying? The man who confessed to her murder is behind bars and the case long since closed. 

The brutal murders pile up, and slowly the plot unravels with an explosion of violence and murder. Who is the Chestnut Man and why are all these people being viciously dismembered? Shhhhh.

I really enjoyed Sceistrup's writing. The plot is original and unpredictable. The book may be 500 pages long, but it unfolds at a frenetic pace. Every page counts as the author guides us through numerous twists, turns, cliff-hangers and red herrings to an outcome which is as bold as it is explosive. The book's length allows us the get to really know Sceistrup's players. The characters, their relationships and their backstories are wonderfully developed, even the supporting cast. An ambitious and uber-talented young female detective is assigned the case, but to her dismay is partnered with Mark Hess, a washed-up, burned-out Europol liaison officer with secrets of his own (a common thread in the novel – EVERYONE has secrets that haunt them). 

All and all, it sent me to find and read more Scandinavian mysteries and that's the sign of a really good book!
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Nordic Noir at its best. Complicated characters in a plot so well built that it was hard to put it down. Several storylines seem disconnected, until the investigators uncover every clue. I had no idea who the baddie was, why the murders were happening or how it related to the disappearance of a girl that has been solved. The murder scenes are horrifying and some chases in the dark gave me gooseflesh. An interview with a convicted murderer in a secure psychiatric institution was so scary that I wanted to put my Kindle in the freezer. And the ending... what an ending. I hope this is the beginning of a new series that I can keep reading for years. The rhythm is fast and the clues all tie together like a great puzzle. One of my favorite reads this year!
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/HarperCollins Publishers!
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Am I right in thinking that, ever since The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo made such a splash, Scandinavia has become the epicenter of smartly written mystery thrillers?  Maybe it’s the long, cold winters, huh?  Nothing to do but cozy up by the fire, drink hot chocolate, and dream up unspeakable acts of utter depravity.  Then it’s either write them up or commit them, I guess, but scriptwriter and TV producer Soren Sveistrup writes, thank goodness, and he does it well.  His creation, the Chestnut Man himself, is a shoo-in candidate for the Boogey Man Hall of Fame - whip smart, cool as a cucumber, driven by vengeance, and he is human.  Well, he looks human, anyway.  And speaking of deceiving appearances, seedy, sad sack detective Mark Hess, on reassignment for Europol, is sharper than he appears and finally puts it all together after local authorities have botched it.  You know they did.  Mark’s character will pique your interest, and so I’m thinking, hoping, more to come, maybe.  In the meantime, read this one, and if someday you stumble upon a crude doll, a little man made of chestnuts and matchsticks, run…… like the Boogey Man is after you.

This one won't be released for a couple of months, September 3 I believe, but it's worth the wait.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins Publishers / Harper via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.
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