February, 1991. A life raft washes ashore in Skaring;ne carrying two dead men in expensive suits, shot gangland-style. Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team determine that the men were Eastern European criminals. But what appears in Sweden to be an open-and-shut case soon plunges Wallander into an alien world of police surveillance, thinly veiled threats, and life-endangering lies. When another murder is committed, Wallander must travel to Riga, Latvia, at the peak of the massive social and political upheaval that preceded the nation's independence from the Soviet Union. Struggling to catch up with the culprits he pursues in this shadowy nation, Wallander finds that he must make a choice, decide who is lying and who is telling the truth, and test his bravery. Internationally acclaimed author Henning Mankell has written nine Kurt Wallander mysteries. The books have been published in thirty-three countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe, receiving major literary prizes (including the UK's Golden Dagger for Sidetracked) and generating numerous international film and television adaptations. Born in 1948, Mankell grew up in the Swedish village of Sveg. He now divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as a director at Teatro Avenida.
Set against the chaotic backdrop of eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mankell's intense, accomplished mystery, the last in his Kurt Wallander series (Firewall, etc.), explores one man's struggle to find truth and justice in a society increasingly bereft of either. Here the provincial Swedish detective takes on a probably fruitless task: investigating the murders of two unidentified men washed up on the Swedish coast in an inflatable dinghy. The only clues: their dental work suggests they're from an Eastern Bloc country; the raft is Yugoslavian. But their deaths mushroom into an international incident that takes Wallander to Riga, Latvia, and enmeshes him in an incredibly dangerous and emotionally draining situation, battling forces far larger than the "bloodless burglaries and frauds" he typically pursues in Sweden. In Riga, Wallander must deal with widespread governmental corruption, which opens his eyes to the chilling reality of life in the totalitarian Eastern Bloc: grim, harrowing and volatile. Wallander's introspection and self-doubt make him compellingly real, and his efforts to find out what happened to those men on the life raft makes for riveting reading. There's a pervasive sense of Scandinavian gloom, in Wallander and in the novel, that might be difficult for some American readers, but this is a very worthy book-a unique combination of police procedural and spy thriller that also happens to be a devastating critique of Soviet-style Communism. (Apr. 24) Forecast: Despite considerable success abroad (the author has won the U.K.'s Gold Dagger Award) and increased exposure here (two of his books have recently been reprinted in Vintage's Black Lizard series), Mankell still has an uphill struggle to break out of the "literary" ghetto. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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The New Press
March 31, 2003
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