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Book Review – The White Lioness: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

Third in the Kurt Wallander series.

The execution-style murder of a Swedish housewife looks like a simple case even though there is no obvious suspect. But then Wallander learns of a determined stalker, and soon enough, the cops catch up with him. But when his alibi turns out to be airtight, they realize that what seemed a simple crime of passion is actually far more complex—and dangerous. The search for the truth behind the killing eventually uncovers an assassination plot, and Wallander soon finds himself in a tangle with both the secret police and a ruthless foreign agent.

Combining compelling insights into the sinister side of modern life with a riveting tale of international intrigue, The White Lioness keeps you on the knife-edge of suspense.

*

Okay, so I’m still working my way through the set of Kurt Wallander mystery novels by the celebrated Swedish author Henning Mankell that I received as a gift last Christmas. I found The White Lioness: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (3) very strange. It’s a Kurt Wallander Mystery, but it’s almost a stand-alone novel with Kurt Wallander pretty much relegated to being off-screen for long stretches of the book. His involvement in the big picture is almost tangential (and forced) – maybe Henning Mankell got a bit tired of his hero? 😉 The novel starts out with Wallander investigating the perplexing disappearance (and murder) of Louise Åkerblom, an ordinary and practically saintly Swedish housewife. The police find very puzzling clues that suggests that the murder is tied-in somehow with elements from South Africa and the Russian secret service. And then, Henning Mankell completely uproots us from Sweden (and forces his main character Wallander into invisibility for long stretches) and we follow the events in 1992 South Africa where white supremacists are plotting the assassination (in a very muddled WTF complex way) of the just released Nelson Mandela. Basically, we the readers end up knowing much, much more than Wallander when the action returns to him as he once again gets caught up in the mystery.

Now, I can understand how fans of the series (especially if you are a Kurt Wallander fan) would be upset with how much this departs from the previous book(s). The series did start out as a pretty good police procedural (albeit with an irritating main character), but Henning Mankell seems to more interested in tying in his stories with worldwide historical events & international intrigue. On my part, I did appreciate the new characters that Henning Mankell introduced, in particular the main villains – Kleyn (the main plotter, the extremist leader of a breakaway cell of the Broederbond in South Africa), Kovalenko (an ex-KGB mercenary now-assassin-trainer in Kleyn’s employ who becomes Wallander’s greatest enemy) and Victor Mabasha (the very ‘spiritual’ assassin who strikes up a relationship of sorts with Wallander). I liked how Mankell took the time to actually flesh out the villains and gave them their own backstories, especially the racist Kleyn who nevertheless kept a huuuge personal tragic secret life. I’ve also mentioned before that I never could get a handle on Wallander’s fellow policemen, but this time around, some of them are better fleshed out, especially the character Svedberg of the Ystad Police. Even Wallander’s ex-bratty daughter Linda gets the spotlight shone on her, and she turns out to be a pretty good kid afterall. And like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been liking Wallander more and more with each book, even more so here where he reaches a point of no return (of sorts). It’s going to be interesting to see the psychologically devastated Wallander pick himself up in the next book.

The White Lioness: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (3) can be a bit too long though, and there are definitely several sleepy & plodding parts and some parts that are very similar to Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. In a way, the scope is a tad bit too ambitious I suppose. The main reason I can still say that I appreciated the story would be because of all the better fleshed out secondary characters who I was happy to meet for the first time.

The White Lioness: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (3) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Paperback edition ($9.56), Audio CD ($25.51) and Audible Audio Edition ($23.95). There is no Kindle edition for US readers?!

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