Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like his countrymen Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Mankell writes mysteries that connect crimes in Sweden to the rest of the world. Faceless Killers (1997), the first of his books about provincial police inspector Kurt Wallender to appear here, involved Turkish immigrants and Eastern European villains. This novel, written in 1993, links the murder of a real estate agent in Wallender's town of Ystad to South Africa, where Nelson Mandela has just been released from prison, and to Russia, where the KGB is busy planning Mandela's fate. Wallender is a classically dour but dedicated policeman whose progress through his cases is a combination of hard slogging and lucky breaks. But several factors render this effort less compelling than its predecessor. The first is the Day of the Jackal syndrome: we know that Mandela wasn't killed by KGB agents or white Afrikaner terrorists, and that knowledge makes the suspense writer's job even harder. Second is the book's length--560 pages is a long haul, even with three exotic settings and dozens of important characters. Third might be Thompson's translation, which--unlike Steven T. Murray's work on Faceless Killers--often seems excessively deadpan. But Wallender is still a solid character, whose strengths and weaknesses are utterly credible, and Mankell (who now lives in Mozambique) knows how to make the most of his virtues. (Aug.)
The second in a series chronicling the adventures of Sweden's Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander (Faceless Killers, 1997), and a Viking-sized saga it has grown to be. An ordinary Swedish housewife suddenly disappears. Her neighbors, friends, husband, all are mystifiedþespecially since she led such an exemplary life. But sure enough, a few days later, she's found brutally murdered, her body stuffed into a well. There's no obvious suspect at first, but then Wallander learns of a stalkerþan excitable type whose interest in the attractive young woman was apparently not discouraged in the slightest by several firm admonitions to get lost. Now that she's dead, he can't be found in his usual haunts. The cops go after him, fully confident that it's a crime of passion they're dealing with, to be resolved only once the heavy-breather is taken into custody. Soon enough, they do catch himþcatch up with him, actually, since it turns out that he's only been away on holiday. He also has an alibi, one so iron-clad that Wallander has no choice but to write him off as a suspect. And so, what had seemed simple becomes complex and murky. Moreover, the international ramifications of the case just won't quit. Unexpectedly and uncomfortably, Wallander finds himself locked into an unsettling competition with the apartheid South Africa's secret policeþthe story is set in 1993þand also pitted against an ex-KGB agent. Wallander personifies the charmingly melancholy Scandinavian of lore and tradition. But 560 pages of this would hobble the pace, and dim the charisma, of just about any protagonist.
From the Publisher
“A first-class thriller.” Margo Jefferson, The New York Times Book Review
“It is Wallander’s voice . . . that captures us.” New York Times Book Review
“Mankell joins the worthy ranks of such past masters as Georges Simenon [and] Nicholas Freeling.” The Wall Street Journal
“It is not hard to see why the Wallander books have made a particular impact.” Times Literary Supplement