After reading Faceless Killers, I knew that I would want to read more from Mankell and follow Kurt Wallander through this crime series set in Sweden. Just as I’ve been doing with Kathy Reichs’ crime series, I read roughly one in the series each year. I’m reading them in the order in which they were written so that I keep the storyline about the detective in chronological order. Why do I love bumbling detectives that do stupid things and get themselves into trouble? Why do I love their personal stories and follow their loves and losses with such glee? It’s compulsive and addictive and enjoyable. It’s the humanity and the suspense and the comfort of settling into a page turner where we already know the characters and we are quite sure that everything will turn out ok in the end. A formula is not always a bad thing.
What I like about Mankell’s books is that with each instalment, he chooses an issue to deal with, usually socio-political. In ‘The Dogs of Riga’ he focuses on the Eastern Bloc countries and their difficult relationship with Russia. Of course this book was written in the early 90’s so it is rather outdated. But that lends it a bit of charm, like reading about the cold war. Even the fact that they receive information in the police station by telex is endearing, hearkening back to a simpler time before the internet machine took over. Also, the harsh, snowy, foggy, grey winter scenes in Sweden seem to create a gloomy landscape that somehow seems appropriate to the cold of murder and crime. I am not ashamed to admit that I like the way Mankell writes and I like the character of Kurt Wallander.
In ‘The Dogs of Riga’, a lifeboat washes up on a beach with two men in it, both dressed in expensive suits and both shot dead. Wallander travels to Riga, in Latvia, where he is plunged into an alien world of police surveillance and multiple lies and threats. He must fear for his life when he no longer knows who he can trust.