Saturday, December 4, 2010

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

This is the first in the Kurt Wallander crime series by Swedish author Henning Mankell.  I recently read and reviewed the second novel in the series: The Dogs of Riga.  Faceless Killers introduces us to detective Wallander who is in his early forties, separated from his wife, gaining weight, and drinking too much 

Faceless killers opens with an elderly man waking up to discover the truly grisly attack on his elderly neighbours, in a quiet rural community in Skane, Sweden.  Wallander and his team are up against it in trying to solve the murder of  this couple.  There are very few clues, apart from the apparent double life of the murdered man.  The dying words of the murdered woman suggest that "foreigners" were involved in the killings.  Once news of this is released through the press, debate around refugee policy in the country is sparked and further atrocities are committed.

The story, including the refugee element, is sensitively handled by Mankell.  Mankell's novels are written in Swedish and translated.  As I have asserted in other posts I do think that some modern crime fiction has a measured literary feel to it.  Mankell writes beautifully:

Wallander looked at the man sitting in front of him.  There was something hard and dogged about him.  Like a man who had been brought up eating gravel.   p 72

I enjoyed the plot of the second novel in this series The Dogs of Riga slightly more than Faceless Killers.  Overall Dogs of Riga was more complex and satisfying in terms of the story.  But that doesn't really matter because I suspect that much of the enjoyment from these novels comes from the character development and exploits of Kurt Wallander, himself.  His life struggles and foibles appear to share centre stage with any crime that is being solved. 

In Faceless Killers we learn of Wallander's challenges with his failed marriage, his father who has dementia, and his wayward daughter.  As with all good characters, there are certain contradictions within Wallander.  His crime solving style is pedantic and dogged but in his personal life Wallander can be impulsive, embarrassing and appears to fall in love at the drop of a hat.  This all makes for a nuanced and sympathetic character that I look forward to following through the remaining novels in the series.

1 comment:

  1. I recently read a Swedish crime-fiction/drama called "Three Seconds" which was superb.

    Great review, I'll make sure to put it on my every growing "to read" list.


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