Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Poignant Farewell to One of the Greatest of Detectives

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Poignant Farewell to One of the Greatest of Detectives

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SEXTON

THE TROUBLED MAN by Henning Mankell, translated by Laurie Thompson (Harvill Secker, [pounds sterling]17.99) DAVID SEXTON HENNING Mankell's first Kurt Wallander novel, Faceless Killers, was published in Sweden back in 1991, although the books didn't start appearing in English until 1997. Their influence has been immense. With the novels filmed remarkably well in both Swedish and British productions, not only has Mankell become a huge bestseller but Scandinavian crime fiction altogether has developed into a literary industry. The phenomenon of evil erupting in a socialdemocratic setting has replicated the appeal of murder in the vicarage on a global scale. Wallander himself, so grumpy, always tired, never well, struggling on, so fundamentally decent, has become one of the bestloved of all detectives.

The Troubled Man is Wallander's last outing (unless Mankell opts to go back to fill in the gaps). It features a complex plot about spying in the Cold War, which brings in all the elements his fans would hope for: missing persons, an inexplicable murder, long trips away from home by weary Wallander, and perilous excursions to remote islands in small boats which end in sudden violence and shocking betrayal.

Mankell's readers, aware of his politicial prejudices, won't be surprised to learn that the international villain of the piece is not, after all, the Soviet Union, but that much more dastardly outfit, the United States. Even if the communists weren't entirely splendid, "the way the Russians thought was dictated by what the USA was doing", don't you know? So The Troubled Man delivers in full as a whodunnit, as all the Wallander books do, beneath their impassive surface. But mystery and suspense have never been the main business for Mankell. What this novel is centrally about is Wallander's own decline into old age and worse. …

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