Home > Book, Book Review, Mystery, Reviews > Book Review – One Step Behind: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

Book Review – One Step Behind: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Description:

Seventh in the Kurt Wallander series.

On Midsummer’s Eve, three role-playing teens dressed in eighteenth-century garb are shot in a secluded Swedish meadow. When one of Inspector Kurt Wallander’s most trusted colleagues–someone whose help he hoped to rely on to solve the crime–also turns up dead, Wallander knows the murders are related. But with his only clue a picture of a woman no one in Sweden seems to know, he can’t begin to imagine how.

Reeling from his own father’s death and facing his own deteriorating health, Wallander tracks the lethal progress of the killer. Locked in a desperate effort to catch him before he strikes again, Wallander always seems to be just one step behind.


One Step Behind: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (7) by Henning Mankell is the seventh book in the international best-selling series about the Ystad detective Kurt Wallander. I’ve come a long way from practically loathing Kurt in the first book to really rooting for him now in this seventh book 🙂 The quality of the series has been up and down, but One Step Behind is definitely one of the good ones, and for me, it’s the best one I’ve read from all seven mysteries so far. Part of it I think is that the translation (by Ebba Segerberg) reads the best – there’s less awkward passages or odd phrasings this time around.

In One Step Behind, Kurt Wallander is once again confronted with a serial killer, but unlike the avenging vigilantes that were featured in Sidetracked and The Fifth Woman (who only targeted victims who were themselves guilty of heinous crimes), the killer here appeared to have an unknown agenda against perfectly innocent victims.

First, three young teenagers enjoying themselves at a Midsummer’s Eve costume party go missing (and later are discovered to have been murdered in cold blood), then a close colleague of Kurt in the Ystad police force is found shot at close range in his home. As Kurt and his team investigate, they find disquieting connections  between the two seemingly unrelated cases – and as the tension and body count rises (together with public hysteria) – the Ystad policemen find themselves confronted with a canny killer who always seems to be one step ahead of the police.

New readers to the series may find the pacing too plodding, but I guess I’m used to it by now. It’s just the way Mankell sets things up – his detective Kurt isn’t really the brightest bulb you’ll find in fiction – he makes a lot of mistakes and trusts his intuition more than the facts most of the time. Kurt basically gets his man in the end by dint of sheer perspiration – doggedly interviewing everyone or retracing all the steps in the investigation or going through all the clues again and again.  All while dealing with his grief for a coworker, constant personal insecurities (and soul-searching), a lonely personal life, and in book 7, a new health scare. It’s not easy being Kurt Wallander 😉

I do like how Mankell consistently captures the authenticity of a police investigation, the tedium of it, the overworked and overstretched police force, the politics involved with other branches of government, relations with the media, and finally, how everyone is re-energized by a new breakthrough (no matter how small). Like I said, many people used to the usual “exciting” crime fiction novel may be bored because of this, but I personally found it more fascinating. There is a lot of gloom and doom that I did find perplexing – the policemen act like Swedish society is crumbling into lawlessness (and that was back in the late 90s!) so I do wonder what the situation would be in our present time (I think the final book in the series is set in our time, so I’m looking forward to that).

One Step Behind: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (7) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover edition, Paperback edition, and Audible Audio Edition. * Also available in Amazon UK

The eBook is also available at Barnes & Noble and the Apple iBookstore.

For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of One Step Behind by other bloggers:

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  1. September 11, 2011 at 3:11 am

    I agree, this is one of the best: I enjoyed first the film and then the tv play.

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