Home > Book, Book Review, Mystery, Reviews > Book Review – Faceless Killers: The First Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

Book Review – Faceless Killers: The First Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Description:

First in the Kurt Wallander series.

It was a senselessly violent crime: on a cold night in a remote Swedish farmhouse an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. And as if this didn’t present enough problems for the Ystad police Inspector Kurt Wallander, the dying woman’s last word is foreign, leaving the police the one tangible clue they have–and in the process, the match that could inflame Sweden’s already smoldering anti-immigrant sentiments.

Unlike the situation with his ex-wife, his estranged daughter, or the beautiful but married young prosecuter who has peaked his interest, in this case, Wallander finds a problem he can handle. He quickly becomes obsessed with solving the crime before the already tense situation explodes, but soon comes to realize that it will require all his reserves of energy and dedication to solve.


I received a set of Kurt Wallander mystery novels by the celebrated Swedish author Henning Mankell as a gift last Christmas, and thought it was about time I cracked one of the books open. I started with the first book in the series Faceless Killers: The First Kurt Wallander Mystery which was translated by Steven T. Murray. The book is a pretty straightforward police procedural set in 1990 Sweden, and we follow Ystad police Inspector (and acting chief) Kurt Wallander as he doggedly investigates the troubling & baffling brutal murders of a seemingly blameless elderly farmer and his wife. The murders inflame already strong anti-immigrant factions, and Kurt Wallander finds himself racing against the clock to solve his case before even more revenge-fueled hate crimes occur.

I’m not really all too impressed by Faceless Killers, so I’m hoping the other books are better since I have a couple more of Kurt Wallander books to read on my pile. I think my major problem with this book was that I found the main character Kurt Wallander to be so unlikeable. It’s a good thing he’s a good investigator because he was a mess in every other aspect of his life. His personal life was totally depressing for me, and I felt like he was wallowing in self-pity (or was maybe actually medically depressed) about his divorce, his half-senile dad, his estranged daughter and I wanted to give him a good slap for drinking & driving (constantly) and for aggressively pursuing a married woman! I disliked the main character so much that I wished that Henning Mankell had developed the other characters in the book more, but they’re pretty much a blur of policemen and family members. I thought the most promising (and likeable) person in the book was Wallander’s fellow detective Rydberg and wished that his character was fleshed out some more.

As for the mystery itself, I had to take into account that it was 1990 and therefore, there are no CSI heroics. Instead, Wallander solves his case via good old fashioned legwork, cooperation with other policemen, rooting out of witnesses and trusting his gut instinct regarding certain suspects. The way the whole mystery was solved (plus Wallander’s admittedly strong dedication to his job/calling) was what saved the book for me, since I just mostly wanted to smack Wallander out of his ‘defeated’-state for majority of the book. Not an enjoyable way to read a mystery/crime novel really 😉

Faceless Killers: The First Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Paperback edition ($8.40), Mass Market Paperback ($7.99) and Audible Audio Edition ($16.95). There is no Kindle edition, unfortunately.

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