Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell

fpo  It's been awhile since I read one of Henning Mankell's Wallander's novels. I can't think of why it's been so long. I think I wanted to save them and not read them all at once, lest I run out too quickly. Whatever the reason was, I'm back on the Wallander train - this series is absolutely fantastic.

This one begins with a deeply depressed Kurt Wallander. He killed a man in the line of duty and even though the shooting was justified, he feels horrible that he is directly responsible for someone's death. Let me just pause here and say how refreshing it is to have a police officer who genuinely feels guilty and sad about ending another person's life. This kind of remorse is often overlooked in novels. In real life it is even worse. For Wallander, an officer who rarely uses his gun, killing a human being, criminal or not, is devastating. And so as the novel begins, Wallander is on leave and dealing with his grief very badly. There's too much drinking, inappropriate behavior, and many solitary walks along cold foggy beaches.

He is all set to quit the police force. Then an old friend finds Wallander trudging along the beach on yet another cold and foggy day and asks for Wallender's help. The friend's father recently died in a car accident, only the son doesn't think it was an accident and ask Wallander to look into it. Wallander declines and assures his friend that the officer in charge of his father's case is quite good at his job. Not long after their encounter on the beach Wallander's friend is found dead, and this time it is clear it was murder. Racked with guilt at having refused his friend, Wallander abruptly changes his mind about quitting and sets out to find out who murdered his friend and his friend's father. So begins another international Wallander mystery.

The Man Who Smiled was a pleasure to read. One thing about Mankell, he doesn't waste time. So many books (that I enjoy) start off so slowly and I have to remind myself that the story will pick up soon. That is not necessary with Mankell. The Man Who Smiled grabbed my interest right way and held onto it. The murders Wallander is tasked with solving are never run of the mill cases with simple motives. There is often an international aspect and some degree of commentary about the state of the world at large. This book was no exception. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone so I'll leave out those aspects here and simply say this is a great read, especially for anyone looking for an international mystery.

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