A blog to share my enthusiasm for books.

Goodbye Wallander

I am a great fan of Henning Mankell’s books, featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander as the main character in his Swedish police stories.

I haven’t read them all, though I am working on it, but I have seen all the TV series and they seem very true to the books I have read. Kenneth Branagh starred in 3 stories and we hope for some more in the not too distant future. I’ve also seen 2 different casts in 2 Swedish TV series but whoever was playing Wallander it still worked. I think that shows how well the books are written. All 3 actors played a believable character.

We follow Wallander and his team as they cope with (mostly) murder, because that’s what we want to read about, as well as all the other crimes which are likely to occur in a small Swedish town. I like that. Most detectives will have to cover more than 1 case at a time, unless of course it’s a major multiple murder case. It seems more realistic somehow.

It’s also unusual in that Wallander is rarely at odds with his superior officer, although he does occasionally get in big bother. Lots of fictional detectives have problems with a superior officer, sometimes with great comic effect, but surely in real life the superior officer is also more experienced and perhaps a bit wiser. So it’s good to see a police Inspector who gets on with his superior.

We have a picture of a man doing the best he can in a less than perfect world, whilst coping with the vicissitudes of his personal life. Since I haven’t read all the books, and the ones I have read have been out of sequence, I probably haven’t got a terribly clear picture of all the ups and downs. His wife increasingly drinks too much, there is a divorce, his daughter eventually becomes a police officer and has various relationships, some good, some less so. And through it all Wallander works steadily, solving crimes and just doing his best.

Mankell’s translator is Laurie Thompson. The translations are very good, not seeming to be translations at all. The words flow smoothly without the awkwardness that sometimes occurs in translated work and there aren’t any odd-sounding phrases.

The book I have just finished, ‘The Troubled Man’, is a slightly different story from the usual. At the beginning there is a prologue set in 1982 detailing an incident at the height of the cold war involving submarines in Swedish waters. The narrative jumps to the present day and Wallander is meeting the parents of his daughter’s partner and father of her baby. An odd conversation happens, and then a few days later, the father disappears. Why has he left, where has he gone, is he dead or alive??

As the story progresses Wallander (and we) try out one theory after another but events continue to baffle everyone. What has happened to von Enke?

Wallander also has concerns about his own health. He’s experiencing occasional blackouts but, as with the dentist, he avoids talking to anyone about his worries. So he takes his summer holiday and works on the problem of the von Enkes, eventually discovering the truth.

That’s all the plot I’m giving away because nothing annoys me more than reading a review which spoils the book by giving away half the twists and turns, occasionally even the ending!

All I will say is that this is the last Wallander book and I’m going to miss him now he’s gone.


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