Home > Book, Book Review, Mystery, Reviews > Book Review – The Fifth Woman: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

Book Review – The Fifth Woman: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

Book Description:

Sixth in the Kurt Wallander series.

Four nuns and a fifth woman, a visitor to Africa, are killed in a savage night-time attack. Months later in Sweden, the news of the unexplained tragedy sets off a cruel vengeance for these killings.

Inspector Kurt Wallander is home from an idyllic holiday in Rome, full of energy and plans for the future. Autumn settles in, and Wallander prays the winter will be peaceful. But when he investigates the disappearence of an elderly birdwatcher he discovers a gruesome and meticulously planned murder – a body impaled in a trap of sharpened bamboo poles. Then another man is reported missing. And once again Wallander’s life is on hold as he and his team work tirelessly to find a link between the series of vicious murders. Making progress through dogged police work and forever battling to make sence of the violence of modern Sweden, Wallander leads a massive investigation to find a killer whose crimes are the product of new realities that make him despair.


The Fifth Woman: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (6) by Henning Mankell is the sixth book in the series, and the second one where Kurt Wallander and his fellow police officers match wits with a serial killer. A series of seemingly unconnected men are found brutally murdered, and the Ystad police force have to find the killer before another man falls victim.

Like in the fifth book (Sidetracked), we the readers are given more insight into the murderer’s motivations than the investigators. For example, we know early on that the killer is someone who is out to avenge an injustice; however, this approach doesn’t work as well as previously in the fifth book – I just didn’t find the killer as sympathetic a character – too coldblooded and sadistic this time around!

The theme ‘dangers of vigilantism’ pretty much runs through The Fifth Woman – it’s not just the serial killer who has taken the law in hand in the name of justice, but the Ystad police force also has to contend with the formation of a citizen’s militia that’s just chomping at the bit to do some damage.

Meanwhile, Kurt Wallander’s personal life takes another huge beating – The Fifth Woman finds Kurt reeling from a huge personal loss that I felt keenly myself (such that I really expected Kurt to fall apart again!)

Longtime fans of the Kurt Wallander series should still be pleased by this police procedural though – the case gets solved via a lot of meticulous leg work by the investigators, patient elimination of several red herrings, plus some inspired insights by Kurt. My main problem here is that I really found the serial killer’s motivations totally unbelievable; also, while the murders are all gruesome and cruel, I felt disconnected from the too elaborate too-well planned kills. Just a huge emotional- and belief- disconnect that I could not bridge. Unlike in Sidetracked where I was hoping for something better for the killer, this time around, I really could not have cared any less. Seriously, with stuff like murder-mysteries, you really need good villains or the whole thing becomes a disappointment.

The Fifth Woman: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (5) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Paperback edition ($9.03), Mass Market Paperback edition ($7.99), and Audible Audio Edition ($23.95). There is no US Kindle edition, but Amazon UK does carry it as an ebook.

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