Advertisements

Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Wallender’

Book Review – The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander Mysteries) by Henning Mankell

October 8, 2012 Leave a comment

The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander Mysteries)

Book Description:

The first new Wallander novel for a decade, and the final installment in the bestselling series from the godfather of Swedish crime.

On a winter day in 2008, Håkan von Enke, a retired high-ranking naval officer, vanishes during his daily walk in a forest near Stockholm. The investigation into his disappearance falls under the jurisdiction of the Stockholm police. It has nothing to do with Wallander—officially. But von Enke is his daughter’s future father-in-law. And so, with his inimitable disregard for normal procedure, Wallander is soon interfering in matters that are not his responsibility, making promises he won’t keep, telling lies when it suits him—and getting results. But the results hint at elaborate Cold War espionage activities that seem inextricably confounding, even to Wallander, who, in any case, is troubled in more personal ways as well. Negligent of his health, he’s become convinced that, having turned sixty, he is on the threshold of senility. Desperate to live up to the hope that a new granddaughter represents, he is continually haunted by his past. And looking toward the future with profound uncertainty, he will have no choice but to come face-to-face with his most intractable adversary: himself.

About the Author
Internationally bestselling novelist and playwright HENNING MANKELL has received the German Tolerance Prize and the U.K.’s Golden Dagger Award and has been nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize three times. His Kurt Wallander mysteries have been published in thirty-three countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe.

*

* Note, the book cover I embedded here is from the UK edition – I just like it better than the US cover

Dang, there’s a part of me that really wishes I didn’t read The Troubled Man – the final installment in Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander Mystery series. Reading this beook just made me feel so depressed afterwards – especially with the way things ended for Kurt [sob]! I won’t spoil details, but man, that was cruel… Yeah, I’ve definitely gone a long way from initially disliking Kurt immensely in the first book to now being brokenhearted by his ultimate fate in this final book.

Why, oh why, couldn’t you have just left Kurt’s ending open-ended for the fans, Henning Mankell?! smiley emoticons

So, obviously The Troubled Man really packed an emotional wallop for me (see emoticon above)… but I have to admit that the mystery per se wasn’t as good as in Henning Mankell’s previous Kurt installments. Maybe it’s because I just don’t care much for Cold War espionage mysteries, but I found this case involving the disappearance of an old man, sleeper spies, and mysterious foreign submarines back in the 1980s just – well – boring. And I didn’t even have the emotional satisfaction of the case being wrapped up definitively since nobody even knew that Kurt had solved the mystery in the end.

I wanted Kurt to have an exciting and meaty mystery for a send-off, but I didn’t get that here.

Warning for fans, the whole atmosphere in this book is really extra mournful and depressing. Mankell made me feel like being aged 60 (Kurt’s age here) is more like 80 what with the preoccupation with death, regrets and goodbyes that happen throughout the book (Example, people from Kurt’s past resurface only to say goodbye like a dying  Baiba, an alcoholic Mona, etc.)  Didn’t Mankell get the memo that 60 is the new 40 nowadays? (Exhibit 1: Liam Neeson)

The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander Mysteries) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover edition, Paperback edition and Audible Audio Edition. * Also available in Amazon UK

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by RSS Or by Email.

Advertisements

Book Review – The Pyramid: And Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries by Henning Mankell

June 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Book Description:

At last, a key addition to the Kurt Wallander mystery series: the book of short mysteries that takes us back to the beginning. Here we meet Wallander the twenty-one-year-old patrolman on his first criminal investigation, Wallander the young father facing an unexpected danger on Christmas Eve, Wallander on the brink of middle age solving a case of poisoning, the newly separated Wallander investigating the murder of a local photographer, and Wallander the veteran detective discovering unexpected connections between a downed mystery plane and the assassination of a pair of spinster sisters. Over the course of these five mysteries, he comes into his own as a murder detective, defined by his simultaneously methodical and instinctive work, and is increasingly haunted from witnessing the worst aspects of an atomized society.

Written from the unique perspective of an author looking back upon his own creation to discover his origins, these mysteries are vintage Mankell. Essential reading for all Wallander fans, The Pyramid is also a wonderful showcase for Mankell’s powers as a writer “whose works transcend their chosen genre to become thrilling and moral literature” (Michael Ondaatje).

About the Author
Internationally bestselling novelist and playwright HENNING MANKELL has received the German Tolerance Prize and the U.K.’s Golden Dagger Award and has been nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize three times. His Kurt Wallander mysteries have been published in thirty-three countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe.

*

As it says in the book description quoted above: The Pyramid: And Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries by Henning Mankell is “essential reading for all Wallander fans“. It truly is (speaking as a fan myself!) If you’ve ever wondered about Kurt Wallander’s character pre his debut in Faceless Killers: The First Kurt Wallander Mystery as a world-weary middle-aged veteran detective, well, you’ve got a precious gift from Henning Mankell!

The Pyramid: And Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries is a collection of three short stories (Wallander’s First Case, The Man with the Mask and The Man on the Beach), a novelete (The Death of the Photographer), and a novella (The Pyramid) which span the years between 1969 (when Kurt was still a young enthusiastic beat cop in Malmo) until 1989 (Kurt in full form in a puzzling case leading directly to Faceless Killers). Hop along for the ride as we travel back in time, and watch Wallander grow into the great (if burnt-out) detective we know in the series. Along the way, Henning Mankell gives us Kurt’s back story and fills us in on the people from Kurt’s past – his ex-wife Mona (interestingly, the problems in their relationship are already evident even when they were just dating), his father (and yes, they had a rocky relationship even in the early days), his old mentor Detective Hemberg from the Malmo police force (who was the first to recognize Kurt’s gift as a detective) and his second mentor and former colleague Rydberg (the Ystad detective who we briefly met in Faceless Killers).

Even though this collection is kind of being sold as best enjoyed by fans who have followed all the books and want more insight into Kurt’s character, IMO the mysteries are interesting enough even for those who haven’t read the whole series yet. Admittedly, Wallander’s First Case and The Man with the Mask were a bit too short to be completely satisfying for me, but starting with The Man on the Beach, Henning Mankell hits his stride with some ingenious plotting. My personal favorite was The Death of the Photographer where Kurt delves into the case of a brutally murdered photographer who had a bizarre hobby. The Pyramid reads pretty much like a shorter Kurt Wallander mystery novel, and I’d actually recommend new fans to read this novella first before Faceless Killers (since he’s actually more sympathetic/likeable in The Pyramid and not yet the exhausted self-destructive mess he was in Faceless Killers).

The Pyramid: And Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries 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, Kobo books and the Apple iBookstore.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by RSS Or by Email. [tweetmeme source=”randomizemeWP” only_single=false https://randomizeme.wordpress.com%5D
 

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

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

Eighth in the Kurt Wallander series.

A body is found at an ATM, the apparent victim of heart attack. Then two teenage girls are arrested for the brutal murder of a cab driver. The girls confess to the crime showing no remorse whatsoever. Two open and shut cases. At first these two incidents seem to have nothing in common, but as Wallander delves deeper into the mystery of why the girls murdered the cab driver he begins to unravel a plot much more involved complicated than he initially suspected. The two cases become one and lead to conspiracy that stretches to encompass a world larger than the borders of Sweden.

*

If you’ve been following my reviews here, then you know that I’ve been blowing hot and cold with Henning Mankell’s Inspector Kurt Wallander series… but wow, I have to say that book #8 Firewall is definitely one of the good ones (if not the best!) I’m glad I stuck with the series even though I wasn’t too impressed at the start – now I’m dreading not having a Kurt Wallander book to look forward to anymore! Out of all the books,  I found this one to be the most suspenseful and exciting – I truly didn’t know what to expect next. It starts out slow (per usual), but when the action picks up, it keeps going at a break-neck pace. I was on the edge of my seat with the last chapters! 🙂

I was actually a bit weird-ed out in the beginning of the book, there’s  a lot of reminiscing going on with most of Wallander’s previous cases referenced in one way or another. Maybe Henning Mankell meant  Firewall to be the last book in the series? It did end up with a nice full circle moment for Kurt – but I’m glad that he revisited Wallander again in later books.

In Firewall, the Ystad’s police force’s latest perplexing cases are  the apparent death from natural causes of an old man, and a senseless (and brutal) act of murder committed by two unrepentant teenage girls. Henning Mankell usually has a running theme for his books, and this time around, he covers cyber-terrorism and the vulnerability of the internet age (the book is set around the time period when people were worried about the Y2K problem /Millennium bug). Kurt’s latest is a real challenge to him due to his uneasiness with computer technology (he’s a virtual technophobe), but he eventually muddles through with the help of some young ‘uns (a young hacker kid plus a younger detective whom Kurt had been ‘mentoring’).  I just wished that Mankell would let his main character be happy for once, but no – Kurt spends most of the book embroiled in a media scandal, with his job in jeopardy, and later – hit with not one but two betrayals! Kurt just can’t get a break 😦 Who knew I’d develop so much empathy for Kurt (after finding him really unlikeable in the first books)

Fast paced, clever writing, realistic characters – this one is a winner by my standards! Definitely recommended.

Firewall: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (8) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Paperback edition and Audible Audio Edition. * Also available in Amazon UK

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


For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of Firewall by other bloggers:


If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by RSS Or by Email. [tweetmeme source=”randomizemeWP” only_single=false https://randomizeme.wordpress.com%5D

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

September 8, 2011 1 comment

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:


If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by RSS Or by Email. [tweetmeme source=”randomizemeWP” only_single=false https://randomizeme.wordpress.com%5D

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

July 23, 2011 2 comments

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.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by RSS Or by Email. [tweetmeme source=”randomizemeWP” only_single=false https://randomizeme.wordpress.com%5D

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

June 23, 2011 1 comment

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.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by RSS Or by Email. [tweetmeme source=”randomizemeWP” only_single=false https://randomizeme.wordpress.com%5D

Book Review – The Man Who Smiled: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell

May 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

Fourth in the Kurt Wallander series. #1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER.

The New York Times called Henning Mankell “that unusual thing: a European thriller writer whose work holds up as literature and who has broken out as an international phenomenon,” and his brilliant creation Detective Kurt Wallander is worthy of comparison to Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck and P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh.

The Man Who Smiled begins with Wallander deep in a personal and professional crisis after killing a man in the line of duty; eventually, he vows to quit the Ystad police force for good. Just then, however, a friend who had asked Wallander to look into the death of his father winds up dead himself, shot three times. Ann-Britt Höglund, the department’s first female detective, proves to be his best ally as he tries to pierce the smiling façade of his prime suspect, a powerful multinational business tycoon. But just as he comes close to uncovering the truth, the same shadowy threats responsible for the murders close in on Wallander himself.

All of Mankell’s talents as a master of the modern police procedural—which have earned him legions of fans worldwide—are showcased in The Man Who Smiled, which is the fourth of the eight Wallander books published thus far in English.

*

Well, I’m still going through my pile of Kurt Wallander mystery books 🙂 And I’m happy to report that The Man Who Smiled: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (4) is the best one I’ve read (so far) in the series. In the last two books, Henning Mankell brought most of the action overseas (Eastern Europe and South Africa), but with The Man Who Smiled, the action pretty much stays within the confines of Sweden, and while Mr Mankell is still concerned with international issues (for this book, it’s the illegal trade in human organs), the focus is primarily returned to it being a police procedural.

Kurt Wallander was a psychological mess at the end of the last book The White Lioness and when we reunite with him here, he’s pretty much decided that he’s already retiring from the police force. However, Kurt is sucked back into being a cop to investigate the deaths/murders of two local lawyers (one of whom was his friend). A newly energized Kurt then flexes his pretty impressive investigative muscles (with able help from new police recruit Ann-Britt Höglund) to find the guilty party.

I’ve complained in the past about how much I didn’t like the main character, but by this fourth book, Kurt has really come into his own. I liked how he was able to get past his psychological wall, and get back into the land of the living. My main problem in this book is that there was very little suspense – we (the reader) know who the mastermind was starting from the first chapter, and we kind of just wait for Kurt (and the other cops) to ferret out what we already know. I’m not sure why Henning Mankell thought this was a good approach for a mystery book – which led up to a pretty lame ending (as I hate villains who feel the need to explain themselves, just saying). Another quibble for me is that I also wish that the bad guy here (the titular ‘Man who smiled’) was better fleshed out like the villains in The White Lioness.

So, in short, the plot in The Man Who Smiled could’ve been more interesting, but what won me over in this book was Kurt Wallander himself. The character has gone so far from the first book, and he’s really grown into someone whose story I’m interested in following.

The Man Who Smiled: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (4) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition ($8.10), Paperback edition ($9.00), and Audible Audio Edition ($19.95).

I’m not sure why, but the ebook is priced much higher at B&N ($14.97), Sony eBookstore ($17.46) and other online bookstores I checked.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by RSS Or by Email. [tweetmeme source=”randomizemeWP” only_single=false https://randomizeme.wordpress.com%5D

%d bloggers like this: