Author: Henning Mankell
Publisher: Vintage Books (this ed 2000, originally 1991)
There’s lots of chatter about Mankell’s Kurt Wallender at the moment with a new book just released (in English) and a new TV version of the character about to air. In addition, several friends have highly recommended the series to me so when a local bookstore had the entire Wallender series on sale I ploughed in.
This novel opens with the discovery by a farmer in rural Sweden that his elderly neighbours have been viciously attacked: one is dead and the other close to it. Niether the police nor friends and family of the victims can posit a reason for the senseless crime and the detective in charge of the case, Kurt Wallander, is battling uphill from the beginning. There are many false leads to be investigated and the frustration the police feel is palpable. The story is a good one and still very timely today, nearly 20 years after it was originally published, as it tackles such important issues as urbanisation of rural areas and the impact of immigration on societies and individuals.
So, while I enjoyed the story I didn’t like Wallander much (which I can live with) and didn’t entirely believe in the character either (which is less acceptable by far). Essentially, he’s a recently divorced, middle-aged, doggedly persistent cop with an alienated child and poor eating habits. Even his love of opera is not new for fictional cops. All of that is reasonably credible but in the same way that female stereotypes have always irritated me, the ‘man who can’t look after himself when his wife leaves him’ character often stretches my believe-o-metre. In this case I found it hard to accept that a senior police officer in charge of multiple investigations at once would be quite so flummoxed by having to buy a pair of socks all by himself. Then again there was a bit too much realism in Wallander’s repeated bouts of bowel problems and his juvenille behaviour with the new female prosecutor. Ugh on both counts.
There really weren’t a lot of other characters portrayed in any depth which, given I found the protaganist so annoying, was a problem for me and led to my wandering attention I’m sure. However I did find the book got better as it went so I will read another in the Wallander series but I’ll have a break for some other other reads first.
My rating 3/5