A friend of mine recently mentioned that she had lately become rather addicted to Henning Mankell books. Now that I have finished ‘Faceless Killers’, I can understand why, and I think I may fly through the series as well.
An elderly farmer and his wife are brutally murdered in their home. There is no clear motive and no leads in the tragedy, except for one word the woman utters just before her death. She says the word ‘foreign’.
Henning Mankell is a thoughtful and reflective author who writes what I would call intelligent literary crime fiction. The author also seamlessly incorporates social issues, in this case he has woven in the difficult question of how refugee immigrants are received and regarded in a country like Sweden. In other books, he deals with things like the collapse of the Soviet Union, teenage suicide, Internet crimes, and how citizens sometimes take justice into their own hands, instead of leaving it to the police and the justice system. Mankell understands cross-cultural issues. He has a home in Mozambique where he stays part of the time.
Kurt Wallander is a character who develops and changes which keep the series full of interest. Contrastingly, the character of his father is someone who never changes at all except that he is beginning to suffer from dementia. And Wallander’s daughter and ex-wife Mona figure into the stories as well. In fact, Wallander’s occasional issues with women are probably due to the fact that he is a compassionate soul, still dealing with the loss of his marriage and not ready to move on well until he has accepted this. Mankell says that he has always been the same age as his Wallander character, which has informed his writing. And he makes Wallander quite vulnerable and realistic. In the 4th novel he gets diabetes and has to deal with that as well, mostly because he neglects his own health while busy with investigations. That would never happen to James Bond!
One interesting tidbit I learned by listening to an interview with Mankell, is that he has placed a mistake in each one of his crime novels. Now there is an additional challenge for a detective novel fan!