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Book Review – The Dogs of Riga: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

Second in the Kurt Wallander series.

February, 1991. A life raft washes ashore in Skåne carrying two dead men in expensive suits, shot gangland-style. Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team determine that the men were Eastern European criminals. But what appears in Sweden to be an open-and-shut case soon plunges Wallander into an alien world of police surveillance, thinly veiled threats, and life-endangering lies.

When another murder is committed, Wallander must travel to Riga, Latvia, at the peak of the massive social and political upheaval that preceded the nation’s independence from the Soviet Union. Struggling to catch up with the culprits he pursues in this shadowy nation, Wallander finds that he must make a choice, decide who is lying and who is telling the truth, and test his bravery.

Internationally acclaimed author Henning Mankell has written nine Kurt Wallander mysteries. The books have been published in thirty-three countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe, receiving major literary prizes (including the UK’s Golden Dagger for Sidetracked) and generating numerous international film and television adaptations. Born in 1948, Mankell grew up in the Swedish village of Sveg. He now divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as a director at Teatro Avenida.

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As I’ve mentioned previously, I received a set of Kurt Wallander mystery novels by the celebrated Swedish author Henning Mankell as a gift last Christmas, and I’ve been working my way through the books. I wasn’t too impressed with Faceless Killers: The First Kurt Wallander Mystery (as translated by Steven T. Murray) (my book review HERE) – but I’m happy to report that that this second book The Dogs of Riga: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (with Laurie Thompson as the translator) is more like what I expected from an acclaimed crime fiction author. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one. It’s soooo much better (much more complex and exciting) than the first book, and if Mr Mankell gets better and better with each book, yay for me since I’ll have more fun going through the rest of the series 🙂

In The Dogs of Riga, Inspector Kurt Wallander is on the case when a life raft carrying two unknown dead men washes up on the Swedish coast. When the victims are identified to be Latvian criminals, the investigation is taken over by the very admirable Major Liepa of the Riga police. After a second murder occurs, however, Wallander is called back to assist in the case. Kurt travels to the 1991 Soviet-controlled Baltic state of Latvia (Riga) where he ends up facing more danger and intrigue than he ever has in his career as a policeman. And oh, he falls in love too (inappropriately per usual) 😉

I have to admit that while The Dogs of Riga is definitely better written & better crafted than Faceless Killers, a major reason I liked this second book more is that Kurt Wallander’s character is soooo much more tolerable and sympathetic this time around. His personal life is still a lonely, sorry mess, but Wallander’s strengths are really played up here. He’s even pretty heroic in how he went over and beyond his duty in his quest for justice (and love). Plus, in Riga, Kurt’s eyes are opened as to how much more terrible other people’s lives can be (compared to his). I’m hoping that means he’ll be less whiny in future books 🙂

I also really liked how much more suspenseful and exciting the events in The Dogs of Riga are. There are many times when you wonder if Kurt Wallander is going to survive (yes, even knowing that there are other books left in series!), and you wonder which of the characters really are his allies or his enemies. I also thought that Henning Mankell did a great job illustrating what it was like to live in the stiflingly distrustful and totalitarian Soviet-controlled Latvia, how people lived in fear and dreaming of freedom, how they struggled against the corrupt and brutal leadership. I’ve never really enthusiastically read up on the events in the 90s when the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR crumbled, but this book has made me very curious about that period.

Here’s looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the Kurt Wallander mysteries!

The Dogs of Riga: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (2) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition ($8.25), Paperback edition ($9.17 ), Audio CD ($26.56) and Audible Audio Edition ($17.95).

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Weekly Meme: Musing Mondays (March 7)

March 7, 2011 9 comments

The weekly Musing Mondays question of the week (via the Should Be Reading blog) is:

What book(s) are you most excited about right now? (it can either be something you’re currently reading, or something you just bought, or a book/books that are soon to be published).

It doesn’t even have a proper cover art yet and won’t be coming out until November 8, but I’m already excited about Stephen King’s new book 11/22/1963, A Novel – it’s got time travel, an English teacher as the hero, and a heart-stopping race to save JFK from assassination! Can’t wait to have this book in my hands – although I’m hoping the Kindle price drops a bit.

Here’s the product description!

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force. Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk. Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time. A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best.

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