Home > Book, Book Review, Mystery, Reviews > Book Review – Sidetracked: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

Book Review – Sidetracked: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

Book Description:

Fifth in the Kurt Wallander series.

In the award-winning Sidetracked, Kurt Wallander is called to a nearby rapeseed field where a teenage girl has been loitering all day long. He arrives just in time to watch her douse herself in gasoline and set herself aflame. The next day he is called to a beach where Sweden’s former Minister of Justice has been axed to death and scalped. The murder has the obvious markings of a demented serial killer, and Wallander is frantic to find him before he strikes again. But his investigation is beset with a handful of obstacles – a department distracted by the threat of impending cutbacks and the frivolity of World Cup soccer, a tenuous long-distance relationship with a murdered policeman’s widow, and the unshakably haunting preoccupation with the young girl who set herself on fire.

Fascinating and astute, Sidetracked is a compelling mystery enhanced by keen social awareness.


Sidetracked: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (5) by Henning Mankell won Sweden’s 1997 Best Crime Novel of the Year and reading it now in 2011, I can see that it’s a well deserved award. Sidetracked is the strongest book I’ve read so far in the Kurt Wallander series and definitely makes me look forward to reading the rest of the books!

Sidetracked begins with Inspector Kurt Wallander looking forward to a long awaited vacation with his now girlfriend Baiba Liepa (the widow he’s fell in love with in Book 2: The Dogs of Riga). But first, Kurt has to solve two seemingly unrelated cases – 1) the suicide of a young girl, and 2) a series of high-profile murders where the serial killer ritualistically scalps his victims. Meanwhile, Kurt is still trying to reconnect with his daughter Linda, while dealing with his difficult relationship with his father. The whole plot is very complex, but somehow everything comes together really well in this book.

Fans of the series should be happy with Sidetracked – this one is a police procedural through and through – with Kurt and his team methodically plodding through the evidence, and even dabbling a bit into criminal psychological profiling. As a bonus, Henning Mankell wrote this with several scenes written from the point-of-view of the serial killer, allowing us to understand his motivations while he prepared and then performed his ritualistic ‘kills’.

Maybe I’m more bloodthirsty than I thought or maybe Henning Mankell managed to write a very sympathetic killer, but I found myself empathizing with the main villain (and agreeing that the victims certainly deserved what they got!) and I really wanted to have a good resolution for him. What I got was something heartbreaking, but then, it never ends well, does it? The series does say ‘Kurt Wallander’ and not XXX, serial killer 😉

As always, Kurt Wallander always seems to be on the verge of burn-out as the body count rises, but he manages not to be uber whiny about his personal problems in this book (Big relief for me!). I’m now really curious about the BBC TV series starring Kenneth Branagh and how his Kurt is portrayed (wonder if there’s a way to watch it overseas?)

Sidetracked: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (5) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Paperback edition ($9.00), and Audible Audio Edition ($21.95). There is no US Kindle edition, but Amazon UK does carry it as an ebook.

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