Tag Archives: Kurt Wallander

The Man who Smiled by Henning Mankell

The Man who Smiled is the 4th book in the Wallander series of books by Henning Mankell (unless you are reading them chronologically, in which case it is the 5th). I’ve had this one sitting around my house for a few months, waiting for me to read it, as I am reading them in order & my OH picked it up when he saw it in Sainsburys, not knowing that there were still 2 books I needed to read before I got to this one. Now, if you read my blog with any regularity, you will know that I had conflicting feelings about this book (See here). After finishing The White Lioness (which I loved), I was really looking forward to reading The Man who Smiled, but I found myself again wishing that the cover was not what it was. (Ok, I admit it, I didn’t want people associating my reading this book with the BBC creation of Wallander – I know people who are refusing to read the books because of that dreadful series!)

Needless to say, I had to get over myself & read it (either that or give it away, I suppose) – especially as OH kept expectantly asking me if I was reading it next! Luckily, I was & I have to say – these books just get better & better!

Synopsis from the back of the book: After killing a man in the line of duty, Inspector Kurt Wallander finds himself spiralling into an alcohol-fuelled depression. He has just decided to leave the police when an old friend approaches him for help investigating his father’s suspicious death. Kurt doesn’t want to know. Against his better judgement he returns to work to head what may now have become a double murder case. Bu while Wallander is on the trail of the killer, somebody is on the trail of Wallander and closing fast.

18 months have passed since the end of The White Lioness, where Kurt ended up killing a man in the line of duty. He has since been signed off for severe depression & has spent that time drowning his depression in alcohol, holidays & women. While trying to get his life under control Wallander is visited by his friend (& solicitor) Sten Torstensson, who has come to find Wallander, to ask him to help in the investigation of his father’s death, which Sten feels certain was not an accident. Kurt turns his friend away, telling him he is no longer a policeman, that he should seek the assistance of the Ystad police.

The day that Wallander is due to go into the police station to sign his retirement papers he discovers that his friend, Sten, has been murdered – shot several times while in his office, which he had shared with his father (also a solicitor). This gets Wallander to thinking about the circumstances behind their deaths – 2 solicitors dead in a matter of weeks is a bit odd, even for Ystad. Kurt can’t help but think that something is dreadfully wrong, that he must right the wrong of turning he friend away by finding the person (or persons) responsible for his murder & the suspected murder of his father.

I flew through The Man who Smiled, even though I was only reading it on the bus to & from work. It was fast paced, full of action & I loved it! Must go buy the next one in the series!!



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The White Lioness by Henning Mankell

I started reading The White Lioness while on holiday in Edinburgh & I was initially a bit worried about reading this one after The Dogs of Riga (which to be honest, I hated), as this is another one where Mankell takes the book outside of Sweden. In my opinion that is a big part of what ruined The Dogs of Riga, so I was worried that would ruin this one as well. I needn’t have worried!

From the back of the book: “In peaceful southern Sweden Louise Akerblom, an estate agent, pillar of the Methodist Church, wife and mother, disappears. There is no explaination and no motive. Inspector Wallander and his team are called in to investigate.

As Inspector Wallander is introduced to the missing persons case he has a gut feeling that the victim will never be found alive, but he has no idea how far he will have to goin search of the killer. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela has made his long walk to freedom, setting in train the country’s painful towards the end of Apartheid. Wallander and his colleagues find themselves caught up in a complex web involving renegade members of South Africa’s secret service and a former KGB agent, all of whom are set upon halting Mandela’s rise to power. Faced with a world in which terrorism knows no frontiers, Wallander must prevent a hideous crime that means to dam the tide of history.

The book beings with Kurt investigating the disappearance of a local business woman & mother of 2, Louise Akerblom. Kurt senses from the minute her husband reports her missing that there is something terribly wrong with this case & he couldn’t be more correct. Shortly we are taken to South Africa, where we are introduced to Jan Kleyn & Colonel Frans Malan, Afrikaaners who are bent on making sure that Apartheid never ends & using all means possible.The two, along with a secret “association” hatch a plan that will ensure utter chaos in South Africa & ensure that white rule remains for centuries to come. Wallander & his team are soon dragged into something much larger than they ever dreamed, or are even really capable of handling, much to Wallander’s detriment.

I loved this book because it really showed off the fallible side of Wallander & even though we are only in book 3, we are now beginning to see the Wallander that I know so well from the Wallander movies with Krister Henriksson. Wallander makes some terrible decisions in this book & has to deal with the consequences, which affect more than him. This book, to me, is the making of Wallander, it is what makes him what he becomes in the later books & what he is portrayed as in the Yellowbird films.

I have read some pretty bad reviews of The White Lioness & while I do not necessarily agree with them, I do understand where they are coming from. Wallander is a bit of an acquired taste – I think you either love Mankell’s style of writing & Wallander by extension, or you can’t stand it & find the  books a chore. Luckily, I love them & they, in my humble opinion, are only getting better & better! My only regret is that I do not read Swedish, as I would love to read the originals, instead of the translations!


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The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell

The synopsis of The Dogs of Riga:

Sweden, winter, 1991. Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team receive an anonymous tip-off. A few days later a life raft is washed up on a beach. In it are two men, dressed in expensive suits, shot dead.

The dead men were criminals, victims of what seems to have been a gangland hit. But what appears to be an open-and-shut case soon takes on a far more sinister aspect. Wallander travels across the Baltic Sea to Riga in Latvia, where he is plunged into a frozen, alien world of police surveillance, scarcely  veiled threats and lies. Doomed always to be one step behind the shadowy figures he pursues, only Wallander’s obstinate desire to see that justice is done brings the truth to light. 

The Dogs of Riga is the second in the series of Inspector Wallander novels and is definitely an example of a work of brilliance – in progress. The Wallander books are eventually brilliant, but The Dogs of Riga is that early example of the diamond in the rough, in that it’s a good book, but not a great book.

The Dogs of Riga sees Wallander investigating 2 murders with ties to Latvia. Wallander ends up in Latvia – helping to investigate the murder of a Latvian police officer. While there he gets dragged into the a political situation he knows little of & which eventually threatens his own life.

Of the Wallander books I have read so far, I have enjoyed this the least. Possibly part of the problem is that for me, Wallander is Krister Henriksson & I just could not picture him in this book. Also, I think it just wasn’t that great a book, it seems to be an odd departure for Kurt, into a situation that I just couldn’t see him getting dragged into “in real life” (<- I was dying to say that, cause we all know that Wallander really does exist, lol). To me The Dogs of Riga just seemed too far fetched & not really very “Wallander-esque”.

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Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Faceless Killer is the first of the Kurt Wallander novels by Henning Mankell, but chronologically it is the 2nd, with the 1st being The Pyramid, which is about Kurt when he is first starting out as a police officer. Faceless Killers is set in 1990, when immigration is causing tension in Sweden, often resulting in crimes against immigrants, & immigrants being blamed for the rise in crime.

From Random House:

One frozen January Morning at 5 am, Inspector Wallander responds to what he expects is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath. An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, victims of violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, racial hatred is unleashed. Kurt Wallander is a senior police officer at Ystad, a small town in the wind-lashed Swedish province of Skåne. His life is a shambles. His wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him, even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly and drinks the nights away in a lonely, neglected flat. But now winter closes its grip on Ystad, and Wallander, his tenacious efforts closely monitored by the tough minded (and disarmingly attractive) district attorney Anette Brolin, must forget his trouble, and throw himself into a battle against time and xenophobia.

While I was reading Faceless Killers I kept thinking about the Yellowbird film series starring Krister Henriksson & in particular the one titled Bröderna (the Brothers), which shares some similarities with the book, or at least that is the way it seemed to me. I really enjoyed the film series & find that they have added to my enjoyment of the books. Krister Henriksson, to me, is Wallander & that is who I picture in my head while reading the books. I flew through Faceless Killers & I eagerly await the delivery of my next Wallander installment!

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The Pyramid by Henning Mankell

Purely by accident I happened to stumble on the Yellowbird Films Kurt Wallander series, which were showing on the BBC & fell in love with Wallander. I love his cantankerous spirit. I devoured every single episode & was so sad when the last one aired. Based on what I watched with Wallander (oh yeah, just as a quick aside – to me, there is only 1 Wallander & that is Krister Henrikson, not Kenneth Branagh), I had to read the books.

I decided to read The Pyramid (which was the last Wallander book published) first as it is chronologically the 1st book in the series. The Pyramid is a series of 5 short stories, starting with Kurt as a young police officer in Malmo, on his first case.  Through The Pyramid we get to see Kurt before he became the grumpy disillusioned police inspector. We get to see his relationship with his father, an artist who disapproves of Wallander’s career choice & lets him know it at every opportunity. One of the short stories sees Wallander senior in a very compromising situation in Egypt, forcing the younger Wallander to come to his rescue & providing us further in site into what made Kurt into the man he is. We are also introduced to Mona, the woman who is to become Wallander’s wife, then ex-wife, & to Linda, Wallander’s daughter.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Pyramid and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.

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