Faceless Killers – Henning Mankell

Title – Faceless Killers

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

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6 comments

  1. I’m really sorry to hear you didn’t like this one more than you did. I grant you though that Wallander gets into more than one sticky situation here… I’ll admit I liked this one much more than you did. I really like the setting and context among other things. But hopefully you’ll enjoy the next ones more. And after all, everyone’s taste is different…

    1. Thanks for the comments Margot. I guess in some ways it’s perhaps a little dated – writers make a great effort now to try to avoid the stereotypes we’ve come to take for granted. My own fault for not reading it sooner!

  2. Don’t despair: the series quickly gets better, and I don’t think the next few books feel like this one at all. They’re longer with more involved plots. I’ve read the series through Sidetracked.

  3. Hi Suzi – yes as Rebecca says the series does get better and Wallander is one of my favourite detectives. I would also recommend one of his standalones ‘Return of the Dancing Master’.

  4. I agree with Sarah. ‘Return of the Dancing Master’ is perhaps his best novel yet. I can’t find a word to describe his writing, to describe what distinguishes him from the other writers who indisputably dominate this genre. Yet, Mankell’s novels have an aura of their own.

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