Sidetracked, by Henning Mankell
Sidetracked starts off with two bangs. First, Kurt Wallander is called to a nearby rapeseed field where a teenage girl has been loitering all day long. He arrives just in time to watch her douse herself in gasoline and set herself aflame. Then, the next day he is called to a beach where Sweden's former Minister of Justice has been axed to death and scalped. The murder has markings of a demented serial killer, and Wallander is frantic to find him before he strikes again.
Sidetracked is the fifth book in Mankell's series about Inspector Kurt Wallander. It is a highly praised book, and has won The Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction and Sweden's 1997 Best Crime Novel of the Year awards.
“Before dawn he started his transformation. He had planned everything meticulously so that nothing could go wrong. It would take him all day, and he didn’t want to risk running out of time.” This is how Sidetracked begins. A hard, vicious award winning crime fiction novel. The translation of Sidetracked by Steven T. Murray is excellent.
In this book, Henning Mankell tells the story from the perspectives of both cop and criminal. So there are no surprises for us as readers - this is not a who-dunnit but a wonderful police procedural.
The action in Sidetracked is fast paced. Soon, three more people are found murdered and scalped, and signs suggest that the perpetrator is becoming increasingly agitated. Wallander and his crew follow standard procedure and try to link the four victims. However, their lives seem never to have intersected. Using American profiling methods as well as his own intuition, Wallander struggles to make headway in the case.
Kurt Wallander's investigation is beset with obstacles - a police department distracted by the threat of impending cutbacks and the frivolity of World Cup soccer, as well as hiw own tenuous long-distance relationship with a murdered policeman's widow.
Mankell's meticulously detailed descriptions of Wallander's investigation as well as his somewhat lyrical portrayal the Inspector's attempts to rearrange his thought processes in Sidetracked are masterful. This, along with his treatment of the deeper phenomena involved in this crime, turns Sidetracked into something much more than an ordinary police procedural. This is another great Henning Mankell, with Kurt Wallander, the fumbling Ystad police detective with the big heart and the great intuition, at his very best.
Praise for Sidetracked:
"Connoisseurs of the police procedural will tear into this installment like the seven-course banquet it is." Kirkus Reviews
"[A]bove all, the novel stands out for its nuanced evocation of even the peripheral characters. Winner of Sweden's 1997 Best Crime Novel of the Year, this is another terrific offering from the talented Mankell." Publishers Weekly
"It is Wallander's anguished voice. . . that captures us....Mankell's philosophical hero vows to make it up to the coming generation while he still can." The New York Times Book Review
The Eye of the Leopard, by Henning Mankell
(NB: Not in the Kurt Wallander series.) Switching between past and present, and Sweden and Zambia, The Eye of the Leopard draws on bestselling author Henning Mankell’s deep understanding of the two worlds he has inhabited for more than twenty years.
The main character, Hans Olofson is the son of a Swedish lumberjack. His life has been filled with tragedies.He had an alcoholic father and a mother who disappeared. And as a young man, he lost both his best friend and his lover tragically.
Hans Olofson arrives in Zambia not long after its independence, hoping to fulfill the missionary dream of his dead friend Janice and visit the grave of a legendary missionary who survived alone in the remote hills of Northern Zambia. Africa is a terrible shock to him, but also beautiful. He stays and makes it his home. After a while he takes sole responsibility for the farm he manages. However, he never fully understands his own place as a mzungu, a wealthy white man among native blacks, and the fragile truce between them. Rumors of an underground army of revolutionaries wearing leopard skins warn him that the truce is in danger of rupturing.
The Eye of the Leopard explores the relationship between the white farmers and their native workers. Through Olofson's descent into near mental collapse, it becomes clear that many years spent in a foreign land do not necessarily breed an understanding of its people or make for radical change: a handful of generations of white settlers cannot change a continent underpinned by myth and superstition. The Eye of the Leopard is a wonderful and very original psychological thriller. It penetrates deeply into the mind of a man who is lost in an unknown world.
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Other fiction, by Henning Mankell:
- (1990; English translation by Steven T. Murray) The Eye of the Leopard, 2008
- (1995; English translation by Tiina Nunnally:) Chronicler of the Winds, 2006
- (2000; English translation by Steven T. Murray:) Son of the Wind, forthcoming in 2012
- (2004; English translation by Laurie Thompson:) Depths, 2006
- (2006; English translation:) Italian Shoes, 2006
- 2001, English translation:)The Shadow Girls, 2011
See also the list of crime books by Henning Mankell that does not feature Kurt Wallander!What else do readers of Henning Mankell read? Check out the literature map for Henning Mankell here!
The Pyramid (Kurt Wallander Mystery), by Henning Mankell
The Pyramid, a collection of short stories, with a prologue, is about Kurt Wallander. It was originally published in Swedish as Pyramiden in 1999. The Pyramid was written after the 8th novel in the Kurt Wallander series, Firewall. However, the events depicted in The Pyramid take place before Faceless Killers. Thus, from a chronological point of view, this is the first book in the Kurt Wallander series of book by Henning Mankell.
"What happened to Wallander before the series began?...Several years ago, right when I was done with the fifth book, Sidetracked, I realized that I had started to write stories in my head that took place long before the start of the series." - from Henning Mankell's foreword.
The stories in the book span a decade in the life of Kurt Wallander. The Pyramid tells the story of Kurt Wallander from 1969 to 1989, from the time when Wallander was a police man in Malmö when he meets his father at an Egyptian police station in Cairo. We meet Wallander on his first case and even before he meets his future wife Mona. We see him in the early years, doing hours on the beat while at the same time trying to solve a murder off-duty. We also witness the beginnings of his fragile relationship with Mona, the woman he has his heart set on marrying. As well, we learn the reason behind his difficulties with his father.
The Pyramid shows the making of Kurt Wallander, all the way from the twenty-one-year-old patrolman on his first criminal investigation, via Wallander the young father facing an unexpected danger on Christmas Eve, Wallander solving a case of poisoning, to the newly separated Kurt Wallander investigating the murder of a local photographer. As well, we meet Wallander as a veteran detective who sees unexpected connections between a downed plane and the assassination of two spinster sisters.
Featuring an introduction from the author, The Pyramid is an essential read for all fans of Kurt Wallander. The mysteries in The Pyramid are vintage Mankell as well. And they provide the missing piece of the internationally bestselling Kurt Wallander mystery series.