The Man Who Smiled, by Henning Mankell, has Detective Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander recovering on the coast of Finland. He spent much of the last few months depressed about shooting a man during a police investigation. So depressed that he wasn;t able to help a friend who asked him to look into his father’s death. When this friend turns up murdered a few weeks later, Wallander cannot help but investigate. This tragedy brings Wallander back to what he does best.
This novel really shows the dark, brooding side of Wallander that we catch glimpses of in other novels. He cannot take no for an answer and pushed hard to uncover facts other colleagues have missed.
Read September 2016.
Henning Mankell’s A Bridge to the Stars is about a young boy discovering the world around him. Joel Gustafson’s mother left him when he was much younger and this defined much of who he was at the age of 11. Joel’s father worked long hours at the lumber mill, but shared romantic stories of his former self as a sailor. Its hard to say if these stories are what provoked his nighttime adventures, or if it really was the dog wandering by at night.
Joel is a lonely kid who carried around his sense of abandonment and fear that his dad will leave him too. In gaining his own adventure stories while traversing his small, cold town in the middle of the night, Joel gains an insight into his neighbors that everyone around him misses. He develops friendships that change who he is at his core.
I read this novel almost 2 months ago now so many of the details of the story have escaped my memory, but the beauty and whimsy of the characters and writing has stayed with me. This book was written for a younger audience but it screams of a great writer. The words and story are beautifully told, which I was not expecting from the author of the Inspector Wallander series. This is such a departure from the crime novels where Mankell’s starkness of character and scene drive the depth of those stories. I feel silly writing this paragraph, but it really was the writing that carried me away.
I loved this novel so much, that I’ll probably end up reading it again. Its a quick, easy read, and the story really carries the reader the whole time.
Read July 2014
This is the first non-Kurt Wallander book that I’ve read by Henning Mankell. I was worried when I picked up this novel because I really loved Wallander and his style and dry humor while investigating crimes. But Mankell does not disappoint in The Return of the Dancing Master and shows that his creativity and skill are beyond an iconic character.
Stefan Lindman is a Police officer from Boras who is recently diagnosed with cancer and is put on medical leave. While Lindman is awaiting his diagnosis he learns that his former partner, Herbert Molin was brutally murdered in a scarcly populated area in the woods of Northern Sweden.
In an attempt to avoid his own life and problems, Lindman is drawn north in order to discover what little he knew of his old partner and why he was murdered. The only piece he brought with him was a memory of Molin’s fear that someone else was sneaking up on him in the woods while they were chasing a criminal years ago.
Lindman has to come to terms with his own mortatlity while trying to peice together Molin’s hidden life. A life filled with secrets. Secrets that many Swedes held during WWII and after. During the investigation, Lindman encounters his own family’s legacy of Nazism. Dealing with his own shame and horror, Lindman pieces together the crime and long sought after revenge.
Mankell’s straightforward style adds to the mystery of the crime and drags the reader down many wrong roads before finding the right one. It feels like a true police investigation with the mundaneness of the job between periods of intense activity. Lindman is not a hero like Nesbo’s Harry Hole. He’s not constantly putting himself in harms way. He’s a solid character that seeks the quiet rhythm of the investigation and slowly and surely finds his way to the murderer. He’s a very introspective character, perhaps because of the cancer diagnosis, but he makes an intriguing character to follow around the northern woods of Sweden.
Read September 2013