Author – Hennng Mankell (translated by Steven T Murray)
Published – 1991 (translated 1997)
Genre – Crime fiction
I’ve felt for some time that I had a gap in my reading by never having picked up a Mankell, so I put this to rights with a pack of three books. This is the first Wallander and I knew nothing about the stories or setting, but that didn’t stop me picturing Kenneth Branagh, rightly or wrongly, in the role.
The story starts with a particularly gruesome murder of an elderly couple at an isolated farmhouse, the opening scene with the discovery of the murders is particularly tense. The police have no leads, but a suggestion that a foreigner may have been implicated in the deaths leads to occupants of a nearby refugee camp coming under attack. This distracts the team and their resources from investigating the death of the farmer and his wife.
The murdered farmer had a secret and once this has been uncovered Wallander believes this will give them the break they need, but despite providing the team with somewhere to start, progress is slow.
I found it disappointing that Wallander made such little progress on the murders during the main part of the book. My personal preference is for a crime book where you can figure out the answers yourself and I’m not sure that was the case here.
Wallander must be one of the clumsiest and most accident prone detectives I’ve ever come across on fiction. I don’t believe there’s a single action sequence where he doesn’t end up battered or bruised. He also fits all the stereotypes – separated from his wife & estranged from his daughter, he’s dishevelled, he works too hard and drinks too much. He’s also not a very good team player and manages some clumsy advances towards a female colleague. Any stereotypes I’ve missed?
I didn’t find this a particularly enjoyable read, but I will persevere with Mankel – if for no other reason than I already have the next two books! You can see a different point of view on the Eurocrime site.
Score – 3/5