The Dogs of Riga, by Henning Mankell
Born in a village in northern Sweden in 1948, Mankell divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as the director of Teatro Avenida.
The Dogs of Riga, the second book (after Faceless Killers) in the popular series about Inspector Kurt Wallander, takes Wallander to Riga, Latvia, to investigate the murder of two Eastern European criminals. This book is set against the chaotic backdrop of eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Here the provincial Swedish detective takes on a probably fruitless task: investigating the murders of two unidentified men washed up on the Swedish coast in an inflatable dinghy. The only clues he has to work on, is that their dental work suggests they're from an Eastern Bloc country, and that the raft is Yugoslavian. Detective Kurt Wallander is frustrated and uncertain whether he has the ability to solve this case, which is as mysterious as it is heinous.
Arriving in Riga, Wallander must deal with widespread governmental corruption, which opens his eyes to the unattractive reality of life in the totalitarian Eastern Bloc. Furthermore, he finds himself plunged into an alien world where shadows are everywhere, where everything is watched, and with old regimes that will do anything to stay alive.
Mankell's Kurt Wallander series has often been compared to the Martin Beck detective mysteries authored by the husband and wife team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. Wallander, like Beck, is a police detective in Sweden. Unlike Beck, whose beat was Stockholm, Wallander works in the small southern-Swedish city of Ystad. The Wallander series takes place in the 1990s while the Beck series took place in the 1960s and 1970s. While the Beck series may be richer, the Wallander books are entertaining page-turners. Mankell mostly stays well within the `police procedural' formula and has not tried to reinvent the genre. He has developed the character of Mankell and his supporting cast of characters extremely well. Wallander gets results more by perspiration than inspiration. He is a fully drawn character. We see him dealing with the break-up of a marriage, an estranged daughter, and a father who is developing senile dementia.
Dogs of Riga is a wonderful book, probably not the best in the Wallander series, but still excellent, exciting, and very entertaining.
The White Lioness, by Henning Mankell
The White Lioness may well be the best Mankell ever, at least as far as his Wallander series is concerned. I just read his Italian Shoes, which has not yet been translated, and currently think that's his best.
The are many ingredients to the plot in The White Lioness. First, a happily married woman disappears in southern Sweden while going about her business as an estate agent. There is no explanation and no motive. Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team are called in to investigate this case of a missing person.
As readers, we know right from the beginning what is going on: she was at the wrong time at the wrong place.However, Wallander does not know this. Inspector Wallander has a gut feeling that the victim will never be found alive, but he has no idea how far he will have to go in a search of the killer and the origin of the crime.
The case turns out to be much more complicated that it appeared to be. The search for the truth behind the killing eventually uncovers an assassination plot, and Wallander finds himself in a tangle with both the secret police and a ruthless foreign agent.
It turns out that it all started in South Africa. A pro-apartheid conspirator has sent a gaunt, steel-eyed former KGB assassin and a black hit man to Sweden to train for a unnamed killing. When their hideout is destroyed in a fireball and the remains found in the ashes - a precision firearm, a sophisticated, high-powered radio, and a severed human thumb - the clues lead Wallander back to South Africa.
Combining compelling insights into the sinister side of modern life with a riveting tale of international intrigue, The White Lioness keeps you on the knife-edge of suspense. Some may find the book a little long-winded in the passages about South-African politics, but it is a wonderful book even so!
About Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell is a Swedish author who gained bestseller stardom with his series of crime novels featuring inspector Kurt Wallander.
Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander mysteries have received major literary prizes and generated numerous international film and television adaptations.
Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm in 1948, raised in a village in northern Sweden. He now divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as the director of Teatro Avenida.
The sequence of books in the Wallander-series (Swedish title, date of Swedish publication, English title):
Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell
An aging farmer and his wife have been attacked on their isolated farm. When Inspector Kurt Wallander of the Ystad police force arrives, he finds the elderly couple brutally tortured, the husband dead and the wife barely clinging to life. They appear to have little money and no enemies. The only clues are the dying word of the farmer's wife: "foreign", and some unusual ligature on a rope that has been used in the crime.
Since Faceless Killers is the first book in the Kurt Wallander series, readers are provided with some background information about the main characters. Kurt Wallander is gritty and determined, newly separated from his wife and somewhat estranged from his daughter. He often drinks too much, and he has problems dealing with the interim prosecutor, who is an attractive young woman sent down from Stockholm. Perhaps it is the fact that she is pretty that is bothersome? Also, he has a somewhat strange and remomte relationship to his father, an ageing artist, who is showing the first signs of senility.
Henning Mankell lets the reader join in on the investigation process. There are no hidden clues as in Agatha Christie's books. It is all systematical thinking, logical reasoning, hard work and lots of man hours. And, as it turns out, after the media have found out that the murders were caried out by "foreigners", poor Wallander seems to spend almost as much time dealing with attacks by racists as with the crime itself. Even so, it is fascinating and exciting.
Henning Mankell is a talented writer equipped with a very keen sense of the psychological dimensions of his characters, and uses this to make his stories dynamic. In Faceless Killers he delivers a fast paced, very interesting and highly entertaining read. My main complaint is that it ends too soon.
Order Faceless Killers from amazon UK: Faceless Killers (Kurt Wallender Mystery).
The Man Who Smiled, by Henning Mankell
The Man Who Smiled is Henning Mankell's fourth Kurt Wallander mystery, another terrific crime novel.
When an old acquaintance, a solicitor, seeks Wallander's help to investigate the suspicious circumstances in which his father has died, Kurt doesn't want to know. But when the solicitor also turns up dead, shot three times, Wallander realizes that he was wrong not to listen. Depressed and world-weary after having killed a man in the line of duty, and against his better judgment, Detective Kurt Wallander returns from two years of wallowing in guilt to investigate the murders of a father and son, both prominent lawyers.
Kurt Wallander, who is taking anti-depressants and drinking a lot of alcohol, ties in the deaths an enigmatic big-business tycoon, who hides behind an entourage of brusque secretaries and tight security, and who seems to be the common denominator in the two sudden deaths. He is one of Sweden's richest men - a man who views himself as untouchable. He is the man who smiles.
Also, in The Man Who Smiles, a rookie female detective has joined the force in his absence, and he adopts the role of mentor to her as they fight to unravel the mystery. And, while Wallander is on the trail of the killer, somebody is on the trail of Wallander, and closing in fast.
The Man Who Smiled is a terrific, very detailed and intense story. The excitement is there throughout. Kurt Wallander is real and flawed, yet manages to be bigger than life despite it all. This is another marvelous book by Henning Mankell, and a wonderful read!