Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell

An elderly farmer and his wife are brutally murdered in the Swedish countryside. The wife’s last word “foreign” touches off a wave of anti-immigrant furor. Inspector Kurt Wallander must solve the murders before things get too far out of hand.

After being introduced to the Wallander character by the fantastic PBS Series starring Kenneth Branagh (if you haven’t watched them, you must), I decided to read the books on which they were based. Thankfully, the translation of Henning Mankell’s novel doesn’t suffer from some of the odd sentence constructions I’ve seen excerpted from the “Girl with the…” series (see here and here for some). With straightforward, almost reporter-like, prose we follow Wallander and his team on their investigation.

Like with most crime novels, the initial crime is only part of the whole story. Wallander must unravel a tale of secret lives, payoffs, and love children all while dealing with his own issues (recent divorce and a father developing dementia). The best crime stories also have a bit of social commentary in them. Mankell uses the story as a backdrop to explore the inefficiencies of Swedish immigration bureaucracy and the underground world of race hate.

The book didn't grip me as some of my more recent reads have, but I did enjoy it. I have another Wallander book in the TBR pile and I'll make my decision to continue with the series after I read that. I will, however, continue to watch the excellent PBS series without hesitation.

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