Tag 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

Summer Read Suggestions – The Bloggers (Part One)

In the first instalment of my final set of vox pops (this runs over two days) for the Savidge Reads ‘Summer Reads Week’ that I have left scheduled and running while I had both a real holiday and a little blogging holiday I decided that after the publishers and the authors I would ask some bloggers what they were thinking of. Especially after my NTTVBG blogging co-hosts and I announced our Summer Selection this week, sadly we aren’t doing anything more than suggesting titles this summer. So I thought what about some other bloggers? Which summer reads have they loved and what are they looking forward to devouring over the summer?

Annabel, Gaskella

I do find it harder to concentrate on reading in the summer, with the long daylight hours I’m always more tired by the time I go to bed, but then I am up with the lark and read in the early morning a lot instead. On holiday I read even less. As to what I read, crime and thrillers often take over from lit fiction – books that are more plot driven and not so meditative work best at this time for me. James Bond, Michael Connelly and Henning Mankell for instance.

This summer I was thinking of starting to read Charlie Higson’s young James Bond series!  But also have had my eye on Robert Wilson’s Inspector Javier books and the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo for a while.

Rachel, Book Snob

Something that’s very gentle, atmospheric, and reminiscent of tea parties under parasols in English country gardens; light, witty, fresh and cheering to the soul after a long, hard winter. My favourite summery read? Can I have two? I would have to say The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim and Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge. Both perfect examples of what I’ve described, filled with the natural, evocative imagery of summer and the hope and fresh promise it brings.

This summer I really want to get Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim read.

Thomas, My Porch

Since I read all year, I don’t really believe in the whole notion of summer reads. But if I think about what I like to read while on vacation I can say that I am more prone to pick up something that would fall into the category of popular fiction. Like on my last trip I stumbled across Her Fearful Symmetry which I would never have picked up otherwise, and ended up totally enjoying it. The Potato Peel book would be another perfect example even though I didn’t read it on vacation.

If I follow the notion set forth above, I would have to say that I am probably most interested in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. It looks fun and easy and I liked the feel of the writing when I glanced at the first page.

Elaine, Random Jottings

I am not sure why I feel this way, but when the sun is shining and the sky is blue I have no desire to read a book that requires a huge amount of mental effort.  Almost as if the lazy, hazy days of summer affect my concentration and it has always been this way for me.  So toss the Margaret Atwood and the AS Byatt onto the to be read pile, ditch Ulysses and Recherché le Temps Perdu (for the umpteenth time) and turn to a more relaxed read, one that requires no flexing of the little grey cells, one that you can sink into and simply enjoy.

So into that category, oddly enough comes murder and detection but only of the so called ‘cosy’ variety.  In the last few months I have read the detective novels of Georgette Heyer, revisited those two redoubtable Dames, Agatha and Ngaio and have thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories with which I am so familiar.    Even knowing the books backwards and the identity of each murderer in each title does not lessen my enjoyment and relish with which I reacquaint myself with Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Inspector Alleyn and also Lord Peter Wimsey as I have  just reread Gaudy Night.

In the last fortnight I have read two of my favourite summer reads and I don’t think it is a coincidence that these books are always published at this time of year.  First up,  Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde which I have had on pre-order at Amazon for months.  Love her books, witty and amusing and, yes formulaic, but written with such lightness and joi de vivre they are a joy.   Read this one through in a straight two hours one afternoon last week as the sun shone. The other was The Wings of the Sphinx by Camilleri the latest Inspector Montalbano story.  I love, love, love these books and Montalba no’s attitude to life, love and food and they are the perfect summer read.  I also read the latest Donna Leon set in Venice a month or so ago and now all my summer delights are done and dusted.

I am sure I can find some more though if I look hard enough….

Rob, Rob Around Books

Like many readers I get a lot more mobile in the summer. I’m never in the same place for too long, and there’s so many other non-bookish activities screaming for my attention that I can’t seem to find the time I need to get through as many full-length novels that I’d like to. So in the summer months I prefer to keep my reading choices short and simple – choosing instead to read short stories and novellas – just so I can keep myself free from any long-term reading commitments. As for a favourite ‘summery read’? Well, I don’t tend to schedule my reading around the seasons but one particular favourite title that sticks firmly in mind partly because of its summery theme, is Niccolò Ammaniti’s ‘I’m Not Scared’ (Canongate).

Bearing in mind my preference for choosing to read shorter works in the summer months, there are a myriad of titles in my TBR that I’m looking forward to reading this summer. But picking just one – well two actually – there’s that wonderful duo of translated titles from Peirene Press that every blogger seems to be talking about right now, ‘Beside the Sea’ by Véronique Olmi and ‘Stones in a Landslide’ by Maria Barbal.

Verity, Cardigan Girl Verity

The most summery book I have read is The go-between by L.P.Hartley; partly because it is set over a long hot summer, but mainly because I remember reading it in my teens lying in the back garden over a very hot Bank Holiday weekend.  But perfect summery reads for me are generally either books which I have been saving for my holidays (and thus hugely anticipating) and/or books which are lighter in feel, whether this is in terms of plot, style of writing or target market.  Generally nothing too literary and dense!

Over the summer months I am most eager to read The Wavespotter’s Guide; I have a huge TBR of fiction but this new non-fiction book by the author of the Cloud-spotters guide is hugely appealing to someone who loves to spend their time at the seaside and who likes nothing better than to sit on the beach and watch the surf and the tide coming in and out.

Marcia, Lizzy’s Literary Life

Summery reading is something that I avoid.  Reading about hot places when it’s invariably pouring down in Scotland is not good for my psyche!  If I’m travelling, I like to read something associated with my destination.  Invariably I spend the second half of August in Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Book Festival and so somewhere along the line, I’ll read something set there.  Perhaps this year, I’ll allow myself to read the final novel in Alexander McCall-Smith’s 44 Scotland Street Series, “The Unbearable Lightness of Scones”.  I just love that title!   I’ve been saving it as I don’t want the series to end.

My reading list during July and August is dominated by the events I’ll be attending at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  The program was published last week and my first pass wish list amounted to 48 events!  At £10 a ticket, I don’t think so.  I will definitely be attending David Mitchell’s event and so,  even though the title contains the wrong season for the purpose of your feature,  “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” is top of this summer’s TBR.

So what do you reckon to these recommendations? Which books of the list today have tempted you? Which ones have you read and agree make the perfect summer read?

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Filed under Book Thoughts

(Sort of) Birthday Books

Hopefully there will be a post above this now which talks more about how the books come into Savidge Reads and my ethics behind it all. In fact some of you might have come from there, but enough of that rant and onto something joyful. Books, books, books! Yes its one of those posts with pictures of the books to have arrived of late at Savidge Reads.

The first ones that I will share, though one isn’t a book really, are presents from some friends I saw at the weekend. My lovely friend Dom got me ‘The Truth About These Strange Times’ by Adam Foulds “worried buying you a book would be a nightmare Simon, but I saw the line ‘he felt almost savagely awake’ and instantly thought of you’. I know nothing about this book so am quite excited. My friend Michelle got me a host of goodies including the ‘Postcards from Penguin’ I have had my beady eyes on for some time.

Next up and some parcels from publishers which were in some cases birthday parcels and in other cases just random lovely parcels. I have separated them and below you can see ten of the long listed Orange books.

I won’t list them all because I am well aware some people are already a bit Orange’d out already (I had a phase of that yesterday but am back to loving it all again) but it now looks like I will have no excuse not to read the short list or frankly the long list. No pressure though I might just see how I get on with one of them now and again.

More of a mish mash of titles now for you which I would love your thoughts on, well I would love your thoughts on all of the books in today’s post but you know what I mean.

Miss Savidge Moves Her House – Christine Adams (how can I not love this when it’s someone with my name, very excited about this non fiction book)
Wigs on the Green – Nancy Mitford (need I say more?)
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders – Daniyal Mueenuddin (have heard wondrous things about this one)
Italian Shoes – Henning Mankell (an author I pretty much want to read the entire works of after only one Wallander, this isn’t a Wallander book)
Ascension – Steven Galloway (I thought The Cellist of Sarajevo was utterly brilliant)
The Book of Negro’s – Lawrence Hill (wanted this for ages though might have to give reading fiction about slavery a rest after The Long Song by Andrea Levy)
Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey (I think everyone is going to be reading this book this year)
Skippy Dies – Paul Murray (a modern epic is what I have been told, might be perfect for a chunky read over the Easter break)
The Lessons – Naomi Alderman (know nothing about this one but I do love the cover so that’s a good start)

There you have it. Have you read any of them, or indeed anything else by the authors? What are your thoughts on posts on incoming books? I love them on other people’s blogs but would love your thoughts; I might be in a minority.

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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