Beijing calling

1 12 2012

The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell

One cold January day the police are called to a sleepy little hamlet in the north of Sweden where they discover a savagely murdered man lying in the snow. As they begin their investigation they notice that the village seems eerily quiet and deserted. Going from house to house, looking for witnesses, they uncover a crime unprecedented in Swedish history. When Judge Birgitta Roslin reads about the massacre, she realises that she has a family connection to one of the couples involved and decides to investigate. A nineteenth-century diary and a red silk ribbon found in the forest nearby are the only clues. What Birgitta eventually uncovers leads her into an international web of corruption and a story of vengeance that stretches back over a hundred years, linking China and the USA of the 1860s with modern-day Beijing, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and coming to a shocking climax in London’s Chinatown.The Man from Beijing is both a gripping and perceptive political thriller and a compelling detective story. It shows Henning Mankell at the height of his powers, handling a broad historical canvas and pressing international issues with his exceptional gifts for insight and chilling suspense.

It is rather gripping stuff. The politics though are slightly less convincing than the detective story. Enjoyable despite the absence of Wallander.



22 07 2010

Before the Frost by Henning Mankell

In the dark forest near Ystad, a grisly find is made: human hands and a severed head, arranged in a grim mockery of prayer. A bible, seemingly heavily annotated by the killer is also found. But this is just one of series of bizarre incidents that have been taxing inspector Kurt Wallander: including domestic pets being attacked. Not a good time, in fact, for Wallander’s daughter Linda to make her debut as another detective on the force. But (needless to say) she soon gives her father a run for his money in identifying the criminals involved–a sinister group with biblical punishments on their unflinching agenda.

This is primarily about Linda rather than her father. The plot is a bit flaky and was never quite sure what the ultimate plot was actually about but the narrative is pretty strong and fairly steams along. Not one of his best but still rather good.

Smiling people

30 03 2010

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell

After killing a man in the line of duty, Inspector Kurt Wallander finds himself spiralling into an alcohol-fuelled depression. He has just decided to leave the police when an old friend approaches him for help investigating his father’s suspicious death. Kurt doesn’t want to know. But then his friend is found shot dead. Against his better judgment, he returns to work to head what may now have become a double murder case. But while Wallander is on the trail of the killer, somebody is on the trail of Wallander, and closing in fast.

It’s pretty good stuff both in terms of plot and in getting into the Wallander psychology and probably the best of the sequence so far. Really rather gripping, extremely atmospheric and captures well the day to day frustrations of both policing and life. This is the first of the Wallander books where I’d seen the Branagh TV adaptation beforehand. Fortunately, the BBC had taken plenty of liberties plot-wise so really not a problem.

More Wallander action

16 04 2009

Firewall, One Step Behind by Henning Mankell


One step behind

I’m growing to like these books more and more. There is a depth and richness to the characterisation, particularly of Wallander himself, which make for an entertaining ride.

The contrast between the complex, challenging and frequently gruesome cases Wallander has to deal with and the routine difficulties of everyday life from doing the washing to sorting out car trouble (as well as more metaphysical problems) is particularly compelling.

Have only seen one of the BBC TV adaptations so far but intend to catch up in due course.


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