Håkan Nesser on his Barabotti detective series

Heralded as one of 'one of the best of the Nordic Noir writers', here Håkan Nesser tells us how he started a new detective series featuring Detective Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti.

After Håkan Nesser completed his Van Veetern series, he vowed he would never write another series. But one day a new character, quite literally, came knocking and so began a new series featuring Detective Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti. Here Håkan tells us the full story.

After I finished my last book with Van Veeteren, The G File, I always got the same question from journalists… ‘Will you start a new series now?’ And I said ‘No.’ I will continue to write novels and perhaps crime novels, but never again a new series.

I stuck to that. I produced one or two books, but then the first book where Barbarotti appears is The Darkest Day. It’s kind of a family drama - a dysfunctional family meet together to celebrate two birthdays just before Christmas, and I describe the situation from different angles. Everything went well for 250 pages, but then I realized I needed an Inspector.

I didn’t want an Inspector, so I put it away. When you get writers’ block, you put the manuscript away and you don’t think about it, you sort of hope that it will somehow solve itself, but it didn’t.

It usually takes a week or two weeks, but nothing happened. After a month there was a knock on a door inside my head, I opened it and outside (but inside my head) there was a character who said ‘Hello, my name is Gunnar Barbarotti, I’m a Detective Inspector in Kymlinge, I can help you.’ I let him in and we started talking and he was, well, he was interesting.

Barbarotti asks a lot of questions about life - what is the point of life? Why are we living here? Why do we do these bad deeds that we don’t want to do? Disillusioned by his recent divorce, Barbarotti makes a deal with God to prove his existence: whenever God answers his prayers, Barbarotti awards points – and detracts them whenever the prayers go unanswered. In the end, he feels the result will determine the existence of God. This deal with God will develop in the series and hopefully he will have found a few good answers to some of his questions. 

The Darkest Day

by Håkan Nesser

Book cover for The Darkest Day

It’s December in the quiet Swedish town of Kymlinge, and the Hermansson family are gathering to celebrate father Karl-Erik and eldest daughter Ebba’s joint landmark birthdays. Before the weekend is over, two members of the Hermansson family are missing, and it’s up to Inspector Barbarotti to determine exactly what has happened. 

And he soon discovers he’ll have to unravel a whole tangle of sinister family secrets in the process . . .