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If you remember with pleasure those dark and gloomy Martin Beck mysteries by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, you'll be glad to plunge into the first of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallender mysteries to appear in English. Wallender's personal life can occasionally seem more depressing than even a provincial Swedish detective should be asked to bear, but his investigative skills are strictly first rate. And Mankell's story of the brutal murder of an elderly farm couple uncovers an unusual aspect of life in modern Sweden--a streak of fear and prejudice against the many newcomers from Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe who have sought asylum there.
First in the Kurt Wallander series.
It was a senselessly violent crime: on a cold night in a remote Swedish farmhouse an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. And as if this didn’t present enough problems for the Ystad police Inspector Kurt Wallander, the dying woman’s last word is foreign, leaving the police the one tangible clue they have–and in the process, the match that could inflame Sweden’s already smoldering anti-immigrant sentiments.
Unlike the situation with his ex-wife, his estranged daughter, or the beautiful but married young prosecuter who has peaked his interest, in this case, Wallander finds a problem he can handle. He quickly becomes obsessed with solving the crime before the already tense situation explodes, but soon comes to realize that it will require all his reserves of energy and dedication to solve.
- Not quite satisfactory
I really expected better, but I'm willing to give Mankell the benefit of the doubt. The language and pacing of Faceless Killers was so pedestrian that - for no other reason - I'm moving on without a pause to The Man Who Smiled. I'm moving on and hoping for a less plodding narrative.
With any book translated from another language, there's no way to be sure that the voice you hear is the one the author intended. However, my husband, whose grandfather came over from slightly north of Malmo, has actually studied the language. He tells me that Swedish has many less words in the dictionary than does English, where we've adopted words from every other language. This offers us far more subtlety in expression, but it doesn't quite explain the flat-affect, non-descriptive prose style that makes this book ultimately so unsatisfactory.
The pacing - which can't be attributed to translation - is also disturbing, in that the actual solution to the crime is presented as a virtual deus ex machina in the last ten pages.
Not my favorite. Hoping for better. ...more info
- The Best Wallander Novel: Short and Well Written With an Excellent Plot
This is not a classic novel, nor will Mankell win a Nobel prize for the effort but this is his best novel as a balanced and well written piece of literature. It is probably not quite as entertaining as One Step Behind, a later novel. It is short and well balanced with interesting characters. It is the first novel in the Wallander Swedish police detective series.
I thank fellow reviewer Leonard Fleisig for bringing this author to my attention. The writing is simply superb. So far, I have bought and read six novels in the Wallander series.
I thought that the novel was excellent. It has a less complicated plot than some of the subsequent novels and there is more emphasis on the characters. Some of the later novels in the Wallander series rely on a string of bloody and gruesome murders to keep the story going. They go on and on - right to the end - and that becomes a bit too much. For that reason I think that the present novel is his best. The Wallader novels remind me a bit of the Peter Robinson Inspector Banks series, but Mankell's style is a little more spirited and more interesting and does not mimic Peter Robinson's style.
The book opens with a map of southern Sweden showing the location of the town of Ystad. The latter is the primary setting, although the crimes are spread around the southern part of Sweden. The police station is located in Ystad which is near the most southerly part of Sweden, south and east of Malmo and on the Baltic. Malmo itself is on the west coast of Sweden, just 10 km across the narrow straights from Copenhagen. Part of the tale takes place in Malmo.
I will not give away the plot and the essential plot elements are outlined by the publisher: there is a murder of a farmer and an attack on his wife. They live on a remote farm near Ystad. Kurt Wallender and Ryberg along with the other policemen in the Ystad police unit try to solve the crime.
This is a great and a fast read that I was able to read with a great deal of enjoyment in less than a day or two. I read it while staying at a hotel in southern Sweden, not too far from the crime scene, and that the details and descriptions of the places, people, and other details are made to seem authentic.
This is a book that I highly recommend. The writing is smooth and flawless. This is a good story with a realistic plot and a good balance between human interactions and the crime itself. He tries to tie the plot to current social problems in Sweden, and it works effectively.
- For Martin Beck fans, this is trip down memory lane.
Echoes of Martin Beck, Sj?wall and Wahl?o's great Swedish detective are found in each chapter of this excellent police procedural. The language, too, reminds one of the Beck series--well crafted and
straight-lined like Swedish modern furniture. If you've been longing these 20 years for a return to
the doings of Sweden's police forces, welcome back.
Or is it welcome beck? Whichever, Henning Mankell
is one author I hope will return with more.
All that's missing in this book are the mazarins!...more info
- A non-thriller that kept me flipping pages to find an unusual ending
Ye gads, Mankell jerks you out of reality, suspends your disbelieve system, and plops you down in the middle of nowhere Sweden. Some of his characters may not be the most desirable or lovable but by . . . they are very believable. In some of the scenes I felt like I needed to take a shower to get the stink out of my nostrils. That being said, it is now after reading the book that I understand my mixed emotions while reading. My normal genre is "Thrillers" and this is NOT a thriller book. Several times while reading, I asked myself why am I glued to this book. It is a tribute to Mr. Mankell that he could engulf me so completely into a non-thriller that keep me furiously flipping pages.
I feel like whatever I say about the plot is somewhat anti-climactic but here goes: An elderly couple are brutally murdered in a rural coastal town - the only clues were a horse that had been recently fed and a single word uttered from the lips of a dying victim, "foreigners" - that single word inflamed the anti-immigration citizenry and sparked a fire bombing and even another murder - can Kurt Wallender, a police inspector, find these hideous vicious butchers and bring them to justice while wresting when his personal problems, a recent divorce, aging cantankerous father, estranged teenage daughter and a severe drinking problem; several times I wanted to smash the bottle to smithereens.
This is HM's first book in the Kurt Wallender series and I wish I had read it before writing my novel, al-Qaeda Strikes Again. Needless to say, I will be reading his other literary gems. ...more info
- the best scandanavian crime
This is the first of the Kurt Wallander novels and immediately we are given access to the man that is Kurt Wallander. Mankell also gives us a insight into his worries into what was happening in Sweden at the time of publication and how much change was happening with Europe itself. This is a rattling great first novel, read it in a night, and he just gets better....more info
- Swedish police officer Wallender is a tough cop with many human frailties...
Faceless Killers is a mystery book about the investigation of a brutal double murder. Kurt Wallender, a Swedish police officer, is responsible for managing the search for the killer or killers. Recently divorced, with an estranged daughter and a borderline senile father, and a pretty severe drinking problem, Wallender tries to separate his personal struggles from the murder investigation.
Author Henning Mankell is a master of the detail. A murder investigation can be a dull, plodding affair. In Faceless Killers, the reader will sense the required doggedness of a successful homicide investigator. That is the unique feature of this book. Wallender is not a perfect man, nor is he cruel or haphazard. But he has to uncover the clues of the crime, inch by inch, lead by lead, until there is a conclusion....more info
- A must read!
This was one of the best books I have ever read. The book was well written and it kept you guessing to the very end. This book is set in a small Swedish town and the small villages outside of town. Being from one of those small villages I appreciated the book even more. But knowing the surroundings is not a must, it's just as good even if you don't know the area. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a good mystery with that extra something. This is not a book for the weak of heart, there are some scary scenes, but in the end it is all worth it because it's a great book. I gave it 5 stars and I am looking forward to reading all his other books....more info
- Will I read any more Kurt Wallander books?
This is my second Kurt Wallander Mystery and the first book in the series. As I mentioned in my review of Side-tracked it is my wife who is Mr. Mankell's big fan having read all of his books. I am not a big mystery fan so it would take a lot for me to be overwhelmed by a police procedural (as I guess they are called). So again here, I was not overwhelmed but I found the book entertaining and well written. Although I find it interesting that the case goes one direction all the way to the end only to have some small clue find things were not as they seemed. In this case the clue was rather hard to believe, but I guess it could happen. Will I read anymore Kurt Wallander books? Well I don't know but I understand Mankell has books with the daughter out now and that might be interesting to take in when the need to just be entertained on a plane is the mission at hand....more info
- Entertaining procedural let down by poor translation
Henning Mankell was a new writer to me, but having seen comparisons of his genre fiction with that of Ian Rankin I tried this novel.
This is the first in Mankell's Inspector Wallander series. Set in rural Sweden it is a police procedural. The opening chapters of the novel are gripping. It begins with a vicious murder to which Wallander is called. There are few clues, other than the last word of the second murder victim, "Foreigners". When news of this leaks out Wallander is drawn into a series of racially motivated incidents, and investigations around camps holding asylum seekers.
The tension is built up well in the first half of the novel, and the investigation of the murder, and the racial incidents, maintains high interest. The second half of the novel is more slackly paced, the denouement slightly disappointing.
Wallander is a fascinating character, and while the novel is third person narrative, so much is written from Wallander's perspective that the novel might as well be in the first person. Wallander is not the most likeable of characters. He has a strained relationship with his father and daughter, has recently separated, and falls into a number of stereotypes as the "loner" cop. Wallander's flaws, his racism (his observations on asylum seekers, for example), and his misogyny, for example, create a rounded well-drawn character. You may not like Wallander but so crafted is the character that his motivation is comprehensible.
However, the depth given to Wallander means that supporting characters suffer. Wallander's father - never satisfied, slightly ill-tempered, and suffering from a serious illness - has potential to be an interesting character, but seems instead to act as a checkbox to note Wallander's famly troubles. Others have a poorer fate. The prosecutor (and putative lust interest) Ms Brolin is one character that seems particularly flat. So ill-drawn are some of the characters that one wonders if a first person narrative may suit Mankell more, allowing Wallander the depth, and giving the excuse of Wallander's perception of others to justify their poorer treatment.
With this flaw, Wallander's work reminds me more of RD Wingfield's Frost series than Rankin's Rebus - where incidental characters tend to be fleshed out.
Most serious flaw in the novel, though, is the translation. Mankell's prose is rendered in a stilted manner, with a number of glaring grammatical problems. Mankell seems ill-served by a tin-eared translation.
This was an enjoyable novel, that started very well, but tailed off towards its conclusion. Wallander is a character I would like to see more of, and I intend to read other books of Mankell's. The series does hold much promise. But if you're looking for the new Ian Rankin try elsewhere (e.g. Denise Mina)....more info
- Kurt, Kurt, Kurt
FACELESS KILLERS (1991) is a crime novel set in Sweden. At this time, many immigrants swarmed into the country without restiction. There were too many to be absorbed and temporary camps housed dozens of nationalities- many from recently freed Eastern Europe. Some abided by legalities for immigrants, but many disappeared and got by as aliens do. This book was translated to English some time ago, but its recent promotion in American bookstores is timely, given our own immigration debacle.
This Swedish detective story is barely recognizable next to its American or British cousin. Police detective Kurt Wallender is so human- so recognizable- so without ego- so incapable of prominence- that the crimes seem to be solved by marginal characters and bits of luck. Most of my attention was focused on the anti-hero Wallender. He works very hard for few results. He's always doing rash things and getting hurt or falling ill. He gets caught driving drunk. He makes a pass at his married D.A. He admits his own father hates him. He's emotionally estranged from all family members. When his wife leaves him, he bursts into tears and begs her return. Even his action in arresting the murderer will make real cops shake their heads. He is no James Bond, but maybe he does represent a present day Euro-officer. The book isn't badly written. If you're looking for a real slice of life crime novel, this may be to your liking. However, I am so used to detectives being spectacular, I am unlikely to read another in the series. Kurt is just too underwhelming. ...more info
- Its Hard To Put Down
It's hard to solve the mystery. But, it's even harder to put the book down...
Imagine waking up during the middle of the night. You're awakened by a bad dream that tells you something is terribly wrong, awfully strange. You check your house and everything appears to be normal. You notice something peculiar about your neighbor's house- the same neighbor who is your best friend you share tea with every day. Once you enter the house, you wish you never entered. That's exactly what happened to one elderly Swedish farmer in Henning Mankell's Faceless Killers.
He discovers the scene referred to as a "slaughterhouse." His best friend Johannes Lovgren is dead and Lovgren's wife Maria is left to die. She is found tied to a chair with a noose around her neck.
It's a double murder mystery that is impossible to solve. There is no evident motive. Both Maria and Johannes are said to have no enemies and not much money. But, the victim has been brutally tortured and killed, while he wife has been left to die. The crime seems way too personal and gruesome to have been a random robbery.
When Maria eventually dies in the hospital after being in a coma, she gives detectives one clue with her last dying breath. "Foreign." Mankell's Faceless Killers addresses political and national issues that extend far beyond a murder mystery of country couple. In a country full of foreigners, Maria's clue doesn't help much. Mankell takes a murder from the domestic space to a national "international" realm. In a country with increasing anti-immigrant sentiment and crimes by "foreigners," the Lovgren murders touch a sensitive issue that parallels political problems in Sweden.
The detective called to scene is Kurt Wallander, a man with just as many personal troubles to solve. Although Wallander is a miserable man with horrible relationships, he gains the reader's sympathy and oftentimes empathy. Faceless Killers is not just a detective fiction with a murder to solve. It is an interactive work. Wallander takes the reader inside the workings of his mind and into his world of crime-solving as he tries to balance bumpy relationships with his father, ex-wife, and daughter.
Reading Faceless Killers, the reader is more inclined to learn what happens to Wallander than the answer to the murder mystery. Mankell's Wallander comes to life. He undergoes not only relationship problems, but also the struggles of everyday men. Wallander's journey through aging and weight-gain is equality a roller coaster as solving the murder. Mankell takes the reader into the mind of a police detective. Through first person narrative and self-reflexivity, Wallander directly tells his readers how he is thinking. The minds and workings of a detective and a middle aged troubled man are puzzling as investigating the crime.
Going back to the action-packed murder plot, the investigation process takes a deep turn when Maria's brother comes forth with secret information no one knew. The truth of Johannes' double life comes forth. It is revealed that Johannes was not the faithful husband and modest neighbor everyone thought he was. His secret "other" life brings light to valuable clues that further Wallander's investigation of the murder.
Unlike Sherlock Holmes who is a know-it-all detective with surprising conclusions, Wallander lets the reader join in on the investigation process. The reader is included in details and each piece of the puzzle. The puzzle is the answer to who committed the horrendous crime and the answer to Wallander's quest for a better life.
Faceless Killers is a must read for those curious minds who want more than a simple murder mystery. Mankell provides a smooth effortless reading that provokes the intellect (solving the crime) and emotion (empathizing with Wallander).
- The best books ever written!!!
The books about Kurt Wallander are the best ones ever written. Mankell has written about a cops personal side also. He isn't just the macho-guy that most of the cops are in mystery books. Once you start to read a Kurt Wallander book you just can't stop until you have finished it!!! BUY THEM!!!...more info
- Good characters and story
I liked the main characters and the story was interesting.
However, the last 20% of the book was not as creative and there wasn't any more character development. It seemed like a mad dash at the end to tie up the plot....more info