Wednesday reading–Henning Mankell

Henning Mankell is a Swedish mystery writer. His series featuring Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander is really, really good, and here’s why:
1) His police investigators make plausible, natural mistakes as well as plausible, excellent deductions.
2) Most of the novels include a smaller case or two that accompany the main (generally murder) mystery. It’s a lot more realistic than to think that all other investigation would grind to a halt in order to investigate one case.
3) Wallander is a believable, genuine character.
4) Because he is a policeman, I believe that he can get the information he seems to get. Private investigators–well, I love to read about them, but I often feel like they’re unrealistic because they seem to get as many doors opened as the police do.
5) The series poses a bigger general question: what is wrong with Sweden? Wallander makes a case that Sweden is becoming more troubled all the time, that the police don’t know how to cope, and that the citizenry is both afraid and angry.
6) Mankell has a Graham Greene sort of feel in a lot of these books. As you all know, I am a sucker for that. The writing is quite spare; the main character is a non-hero; and there is a very clear assessment of what Wallander’s talents are.

The latest books in the series also feature his daughter, Linda, as a policewoman. I like these, too, but maybe not as much as the earlier novels, which are just Wallander himself. Oddly enough, they were not translated in order, so what I’m reading right now is THE MAN WHO SMILED, which is not the latest that he has published in Sweden (indeed, I think it’s from the 90s), but is the latest to be translated. So it’s filling in gaps in the narrative for me, as I have already read a lot of the more recent ones.

I like his novel THE RETURN OF THE DANCING MASTER, too–it takes a minor character from the Wallander series and makes him the main character. I have to say, however, that I’m not getting into his novel, THE CHRONICLER OF THE WINDS. It has a different translator from any of the other novels, and maybe that’s why–who knows?

Anyway, if you like mysteries, you owe it to yourself to check these out. The first is called FACELESS KILLERS and it is available in trade paperback. Just to warn you, though–the writer is Swedish, so all of the names of people sound like Ikea products. (I find myself thinking, “Aardven… sounds like a sofa table.”)


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