In the debut novel by the creator of The Killing, a psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen. His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene. Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago. A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted?
... one of the best novels of this (and perhaps any) year ... The plot is somewhat complex but easily understood thanks to Sveistrup’s straightforward narrative, which is given a very able boost by Caroline Waight’s translation ... an extremely intriguing mystery, but the character development is so fascinating that it almost puts the puzzle in the second chair. The suspense is excruciating by the time one reaches the end of the story, where much is revealed and even more is sacrificed ... Sveistrup’s extensive experience in television scripting is present here, the cinematic narration of which leaves the reader without a suitable pausing point for all of the best reasons. Don’t hesitate to read the book, or watch the series when it is finally available. There is already proof positive that one is superb. The other should be as well.
The Chestnut Man is a fearsome page-turner that places a premium on action. The short and sharp chapters move along at a thunderous pace. Evidence piles upon evidence, and at almost every turn there is a new and shocking development in the Chestnut Man case. While readers should know that the ultimate reveal does not come until near the end of the book, hardly any should waste time trying to guess the culprit’s identity. It’s almost certain that you won’t get it right...This is not the novel for the squeamish or easily offended ... Most of the people in this novel fall somewhere between banal and evil, with the titular killer being the chief and leader of the horribles. Sveistrup, who is best known for creating the television show The Killing, proves in here that he is a master storyteller with a true talent for murder. The Chestnut Man is as hard to put down as it is to stomach. The novel could be trimmed down just a little and still maintain its character-driven core.
The book is so chockfull of [red herrings] that it seemed half of Copenhagen (population 777, 218) might be guilty of the brutal crimes detailed therein ... [Sveistrup] is a very good writer. The Chestnut Man is heavily researched and replete with juicy details of murders, dismemberments, forensic science, and the like ... so many blind alleys and tangential crimes ... I couldn’t help feeling that either Sveistrup is exaggerating Denmark’s rottenness, or Copenhagen should be avoided entirely. I’m pretty sure it’s the former, and I think I know why. Sveistrup has written a novel that will make a great screenplay for the TV series that he plans. If each creep he writes about in The Chestnut Man gets a one-hour episode, the show will run for years ... Although it feels padded in spots, The Chestnut Man is a hard book to put down, because there is basically a new suspect every couple of chapters. And, from the first pages, a reader wants to find out if Rosa Hartung’s child is still alive ... Thulin and Hess (like most of the major characters) are not really developed to the point where we care deeply about them. And the novel’s resolution is ambiguous.