Faceless Killers – Henning Mankell

I mentioned on Saturday that I have been really enjoying the BBC series of Wallander adapted from the Henning Mankell series. I have however been leaving watching Faceless Killers as I wanted to read the book first. Well finally I have gotten round to it. Would I love the book as much as do the television series, would it be as atmospheric and gloomy yet fantastic as the TV show?

Faceless Killers is the first in the now very successful series of Wallander books by Henning Mankell. It opens with the discovery of the brutal murder Lovgren’s, an elderly couple who have been living their latter years in the Swedish countryside, by their neighbours. Inspector Wallander is called to the scene where they have discovered Maria Lovgren is still alive but not for long. Her final word being ‘foreigners’ is also the only clue as who might have killed this couple as no one can work out why they would have been murdered. It is up to Wallander and his colleagues to try and find the killer though once someone leaks the woman’s last word to the press a racial storm is whirled up causing its own shocking deadly events.

Wallander is a brilliant creation as he is incredibly flawed; in fact really both he and his life are a complete mess. His wife has left him, his daughter has barely spoken to him since she tried to kill herself and he saved her and his father is becoming senile and he is surviving on caffeine, alcohol, pain killers and little sleep. It can be difficult to make a distinct lead character in crime fiction as there are so many inspectors/detectives to choose from but Mankell has done it instantly with Wallander.

I also thought that throwing in the topic of racism in Sweden makes the book not only have another dimension to it but looks at a country changing. It’s interesting to see through the characters how they all react to this and the state of immigrants in the country fictionally; though I think Mankell is trying to also raise a current topic that’s important to be discussed. I couldn’t believe that this was originally written nearly 20 years ago as it felt very fresh and current. You could put that down to translation but I think its definitely in the main down to the author. I think first crime novels can be really difficult but Mankell makes it look easy and I cannot wait to read The Dogs of Riga.

I am really excited about the rest of the series and can completely see why people have been raving about it for so long. It was interesting though as I watched the TV version about half an hour after finishing the last page (because I didn’t want it to expire on iPlayer) and as usual the show was beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and gripping. It is also very much an ‘adaptation’ though the story is much more complex in the book and twists and turns a lot and some characters don’t exist in the book or look anything like their description if they are in it. That’s not a criticism as the show is amazing, if anything it’s a bonus as if I read the others that I have seen I know they will be quite a bit different. I do think that Branagh is a perfect Wallander and that rarely happens. So now I have double the delight.

If you haven’t tried this series be you a fan of crime or not do give it a whirl. It comes highly recommended from Savidge Reads. Who else has read this book? Does the series carry on in the same vein, does it get better? Any other Wallander thoughts?



Filed under Books To Film, Henning Mankell, Review, Vintage Books

33 responses to “Faceless Killers – Henning Mankell

  1. Dot

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed the book as much as the programme. After reading the book I think it made me appreciate even more the brilliant job that the BBC did and Kenneth Brannagh is the perfect choice for Kurt Wallander.

    • I really did Dot and whats more because it is quite different from the show means that if I read (which I will) The Fifth Woman and The Man Who Smiled in the future I know they wiull have something different to add. You are right about the TV show though Brannagh is perfect and the show visually is something very special.

  2. I have no idea why I’ve never read anything by Henning Mankell. I love crime fiction, and I have quite the soft spot for Scandanavian literature – there is also a certain atmosphere to it that I find utterly addictive. Thanks for reminding me I must get round to him.

    By the way, if you’re looking for a good Scandanavian read, try ‘The Ice Palace’ by Tarjei Vesaas.

  3. So glad you enjoyed your first Wallander. He is indeed flawed and I recently saw the series and thought Brannagh was excellent. He is Wallander! Faceless Killers isn’t even the best one. You’ve got a lot of good mysteries still ahead.

    • I thoroughly enjoyed it Mrs B and am now very excited that I have got so many more to go, though as I have to read them in order and dont have The Dogs of Riga, it might be a while till my next one unless the library comes up trumps!

  4. caroline

    I am glad you enjoyed your first Wallender novel.I think Faceless Killers is one of the better novels in the series and agree with you that the issues it tackles are ,if anything , even more relevant today than when the book was published.I read somewhere that Henning Mankell wrote the book because he returned to Sweden after living for a time in A frica and was worried by the attitudes of some of his countrymen to immigrants.At that time he did not intend to write a series of crime novels.

    I can reccomend the rest of the series.There is a final novel on its way as well.

    • The issues it raises are very important ones and its interesting to hear more about why he wanted to raise them so thank you for that Caroline.

      Final as in final ever, oh no, I have only read the first one and don’t want the series to end already. Mind you best to end it on a high.

      • caroline

        I think it is final as in final. No more. The book has been released in Sweden but is not yet available in translation.

        There also a book of short stories called ‘The Pyramid’ which covers Wallanders early career and ends just as he gets the phone call at the start of Faceless Killers.

      • Oh dear I don’t want it to be final, mind you I have lots to look forward to. Have heard good things about The Pyramid too, maybe more prequels will appear.

  5. I’ve been holding off watching the series, wanting to read the books first. Except I’ve beeen putting it off and puttting it off…there always seems to have been something more pressing in the TBR pile. Clearly, it’s time to bump up the priority of his books in my queue – thanks for the reminder!

    • I would juts say go for it with both the books and the TV series as I just cannot get enough of either of them now and they actually work very well in complimenting each other.

  6. Eva

    You’ve totally sold me! 🙂

  7. farmlanebooks

    I haven’t read any yet, but have this book at the top of the TBR pile. I hope that I enjoy it as much as you did.

  8. You know, I think all the best literary detectives are middle-aged having their own mid-life crisis and battling against baggage. I’ve read the first 2 Wallander books and enjoyed them – must read some more. Branagh is a perfect Wallander too.

  9. Anndra

    I was kind of disappointed by the BBC adaptation. Mostly due to their departure form the books. But I must admit that it is certainly one of the better programs produced by the Beeb recently.

    If you are developing a taste for Swedish fiction I can recommend the Millennium trilogy by Stig Larrson.

    • I must try the Millennium trilogy as I have had the first in the series on my shelves for ages and ages its a bit ridiculous really. Maybe thats one to give a whirl in a few weeks.

  10. lena

    The book has been added to my list but the show! the show I must get as soon as possible. My inlaws and I looooove watching this kind of stuff (:

    • I am not sure what the plan is with the show internationally, I would imagine it will go to BBC America am not sure where else is getting it or when. The books are good in the mean time though.

  11. I watched the Wallander shows when they were on here but they were so incredibly sad that I’m not sure I would want to read the books. I do have quite a few things though that I would watch but not read. It’s a strange thing but I think it’s due to an amount of tolerance that I can deal with. I can watch a gritty or sad or violent show for two hours but I can’t immerse myself in the same type of topic in a book for twelve hours or whatever it takes.

    • I didn’t find Faceless Killers that sad though will agree that the TV show did everything it could to pull at the emotional heart strings (the end scene with the horse which isnt in the book). I think with all things sad every so often you have to go through it and books that can make you feel that way are incredible in their own right. I wouldnt say these books, well not this one, go that far.

  12. Under the terms of your self-imposed book buying ban are you allowed to reserve books at the library? Or is this also banned since it might be deemed to be paying for books? If it is allowed, then the best way to get hold of the Dogs of Riga might be to order it. If you’re library is as good as mine you should be able to do so online. Direct.gov.uk should tell you whether your library offers this service. My library charges 80 pence whether you reserve in person or online but, as they say in commercials, “charges may vary”.

    I really liked the Dogs of Riga but I’ve seen people commenting elsewhere (think big South American river) who were less than keen because it is quite different from the rest of the series. It’s closer to a Le Carre style cold war espionage book than a crime novel.

    • David, sadly I am not allowing myself to pay the reserve fee, which is partly because its something I have slight issues with. So I won’t be ordering it in or online, rather waiting to see if it ever turns up by chance when I happen to be there.

      The Dogs of Riga sounds interesting from how you have just described it, lets see how long it takes for me to manage to get my mitts on it.

  13. I found it slightly dull but I’ve never been a reader of crime fiction. On a related note, the Swedish version is excellent and better than the BBC version although that is still very good and Kenneth “no lips” Brannagh makes a decent Wallander.

    • Dull? Oh dear thats not good, I thought it was a great book. I have seen some of the swedish show and didnt think it was as good as the BBC version, your ‘no lips’ comment made me laugh though.

  14. Chris

    Yes, do at some point get to watch the original Wallender films in Swedish with subtitles. They were shown on BBC4 over the past year and really captured time, place and character.
    The main actors were somehow more as I had imagined them through reading the books of which I am a great fan, even contemplating a holiday in Sweden to visit Ystaad!

    • I have been watching a few of these on BBC4 Chris but I dont know why (as they are very good) I just havent gotten into them as much as I have done the BBC version with Brannagh! I like them, I just think the new ones are so visually stunning its sometimes tempting to dive into the tv!

  15. Pingback: The Troubled Man – Henning Mankell « Savidge Reads

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