Category Archives: Henning Mankell

The Troubled Man – Henning Mankell

I decided that I would break one of my habits of a lifetime when I received, a few weeks early, a copy of ‘The Troubled Man’ by Henning Mankell … I read a series out of order. I am sure that everyone is well aware that ‘The Troubled Man’ is in fact the final Kurt Wallander case, a detective series which has taken the reading world by storm. I am not really a huge Wallander buff, in fact apart from having read the first Wallander novel ‘Faceless Killers’ (which I thought was very good) and seeing both the Swedish and UK adaptations I guess I am a Wallander novice so I was aware that going from the first of his cases to the last might not work. Yet after reading ‘Great House’ by Nicole Krauss I needed something that would be just as page turning and readable but maybe less involved. Little did I know that reading ‘The Troubled Man’ would have me deeply engrossed from the start, despite my initial ‘eek’ moment when I realised the book would have a lot of submarines in it. I don’t tend to do well with books based on boats or at sea it has to be said.

When you start reading ‘The Troubled Man’ you can almost instantly tell from its style and delivery that this is going to be the last of the Kurt Wallander novels. Not because the ending of it all is given away from the start, and fear not I shall not give anything away here either, but because Wallander seems incredibly reflective and nostalgic about his past and indeed his future. Initially this concerned me slightly. This wasn’t going to be a case of an author spinning out the final instalment using as many words and random tangents as possible was it? Not really, is the answer. What Mankell uses this for is to show us just where our protagonist is in his head and why he takes on a case that really doesn’t fall under his jurisdiction, though I could be wrong as I don’t know the ins and outs of Sweden’s legal system or its police procedures.

When Hakan von Enke suddenly vanishes on an April morning it is most out of character. However it is not a case which Wallander or his team are given and yet he gets himself embroiled in it all. This isn’t for professional reasons; in fact it’s all rather personal as his daughter Linda (now a police officer like her father) has met the man of her life, who happens to be Hakan von Enke’s son. This could seem rather intangible but having read ‘Faceless Killers’ and in the glimpses of back story we get we soon learn his and Linda’s relationship has not always been good. Here is a father who desperately wants to keep that relationship and help, and possibly protect his daughter.

As the mystery develops not only does Hakan’s wife Louise go missing, but a political secret starts to come to light from the past as well as some more personal family secrets the von Enke’s have been hiding. In fact these secrets from the past, which all evolves around the Cold War and Sweden’s part in it (based around submarines as Hakan von Enke was in the navy as a commander) becomes an additional strand to the novel and one that interested me far more than I would have expected it to.

I did think that ‘The Troubled Man’ could have done with a fair bit of editing. It seemed to go on with various sub-plots of crimes that Wallander sort of starts investigating, and then leaves in favour of this more personal case, seemed like padding. I also thought the characters slightly weaker, well lots of them vanished in fairness, in this novel. Wallander seemed fully built, if a bit solemn and self pitying (but then as the book goes on we see why), as did his daughter Linda, everyone else was a little more two dimensional, but maybe that is where me not having read all the series and previously followed all of the characters to this final dénouement comes into play. This is both a positive and a negative as it has made me want to go back and start again, but also disappointed me somewhat as I tend to think the best series are the ones you can pick up at any point. Even if normally I tend to read them in order.

Regardless of how good this book is or isn’t, and I did find myself hooked apart from the odd ten pages or so every so often, people will be buying ‘The Troubled Man’ in their droves. It’s not the thriller that I was expecting, in fact it’s darker and rather more depressing, than I had imagined but it is a solid crime novel. 7.5/10

This book was kindly sent by the publishers.

Will you be one of the many Wallander fans that will be devouring this novel instantly, if you haven’t already of course? Is there anyone out there who hasn’t read a Wallander novel yet, will you start at the end or the very beginning? Is anyoe not bothered about Wallander (you might find this review by The Guardian very funny, I sniggered)? I do feel like Wallander a little now, as I have the start of his story and the end of it, do I turn to the middle sections and discover more?

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Filed under Harvill Secker Books, Henning Mankell, Review

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?

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

Simon’s Bookish Bits #4

Hello, hope you are all well? I sadly have the lurgy so this is a bit of a late bookish bits from my bed where I can have a ramble on about lots of different bookish things that have been on my mind or caught my eye this week. Things coming up are Wallander, book winners, podcasts and vlogs and some more sympathy supplies from publishers. Plus possibly a few other bits and pieces.

First up, and I am probably really behind with this subject, is Wallander. I am sure most of you have heard about this series by Henning Mankell and have also probably read most of them. I am officially late to this Swedish crime series; however as I have a spectacular lurgy this week I have been watching more catch up TV than I have been reading books. (I have devoured some more short stories and a small book plus Jasper Fforde – ok I have been reading less than normal.) One series I came across was the BBC’s version of Wallander played by Kenneth Branagh (pictured below) which you can see on iPlayer.

Wallander... cleary a man who doesn't get hayfever!

Wallander, cleary a man who doesnt get hayfever!

It is absolutely superb, I only watched The Man Who Smiled as I have Faceless Killers on the TBR and am now about to get cracking on reading it before I watch it. I am sure many of you have read it and will be able to tell me where to go after Faceless Killers which I am sure I will be discussing next week in more detail, so don’t give any plots away please.

So next up Podcasts and Vlogs. I am new to Vlog’s and know of only one blogger who does them and its one of my other favourite posts each week which is Eva of A Striped Armchair and her weekly library loot. I have to add I wish my local library was as wonderful as hers as the titles she gets are just marvellous. You must have a watch of her Vlog’s (the latest can be found here) as they are utterly charming and in watching them you get to know Eva even better. I couldn’t do a Vlog I have to say the camera does not flatter me. I would love to make podcasts though I have no idea how do any of you? Do any of you have any Podcast recommendations as I have been bereft since Radio 5 stopped doing there’s, even if I still have Mariella on a Sunday and World Book Club.

Speaking of Podcasts I have found a wonderful new Podcast this week thanks to Mee who had written about it in one of her past blog posts. It is called Books on the Nightstand and is by Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman who work for Random ‘but don’t only talk about our publishers books’. Its marvellous and its like you are overhearing a conversation of two friends over a coffee nattering away about books they have read and loved. You can (and should) download them here and read their blog they are just brilliant from the latest books to ‘challenges on blogs’ they discuss it all. Marvellous!

Now finally an update on the BBB, so far so good but then I have been in bed most of the week. One thing thats been a delight while I have been feeling vile is that I have had rather an influx of books as some lovely publishers have sent me some sympathy parcels. I have had to take a picture on the stairs as there has been rather a wonderful deluge of books here. I did try and put them in publisher order but with all the different sizes it didn’t work. So before I list them all too you a big thanks to Canongate, Orion, Random House, Headline, Penguin, Faber, OUP, Constable and Robinson and Bloomsbury for these. Here they are;

  • The Blasphemer – Nigel Farndale
  • City Boy – Edmund White
  • The Unnamed – Joshua Ferris
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  • Lost – Gregory Maguire
  • Dog Boy – Eva Hornung
  • A Life Apart – Neel Mukherjee
  • Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match – Wendy Moore
  • God’s Own Country – Ross Raisin
  • Shadow – Karin Alvtegen
  • A Lion Among Men – Gregory Maguire
  • Direct Red – Gabriel Weston
  • Depths – Henning Mankell
  • The Chalk Circle Man – Fred Vargas
  • Cutting For Stone  – Abraham Verghese
  • The Complete Short Stories – Oscar Wilde
  • Consolation – James Wilson
  • The Rapture – Liz Jensen
  • A Kid For Two Farthings – Wolf Mankowitz
  • Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker
  • Love’s Shadow – Ada Leverson
  • Mrs Tim of the Regiment – D.E. Stevenson
  • Timoleon Vieta Come Home – Dan Rhodes
  • Anthropology – Dan Rhodes
  • Little Clapping Hands – Dan Rhodes

As ever if you have read any of the books or the authors let me know your thoughts. Ooh I nearly forgot… The Istanbul competition winner is… Michelle aka Su(shu) do email me your address! If you haven’t won don’t be disheartened as I have some more giveaways related to some of the above titles coming up (I like you all to benefit too) and some I haven’t mentioned! So keep your eyes peeled.

So that’s all from my sneezy wheezy sick bed for today. Let me know your thoughts on Wallander, the latest arrivals at Savidge Towers and details of any podcasts and vlog’s I am missing out on. Oh and if you know how to make podcasts do let me know! Over to you all, I look forward to your comments to cheer me up with this horrid lurgy.

Oh and another quick question as you guys are always helpful with things like this and I can’t work out which is better. Should I title these posts like this “Simon’s Bookish Bits: Wallander, Podcasts, Vlogs and Incoming” or simply “Simon’s Bookish Bits #5”? That would be as helpful as answers to all the above!

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Filed under Dan Rhodes, Edmund White, Gregory Maguire, Henning Mankell, Joshua Ferris, Kathryn Stockett, Neel Mukherjee, Nigel Farndale, Oscar Wilde, Simon's Bookish Bits, Wolf Mankowitz