Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Vulnerable Detective: Sweden's "Wallander" Series

photo of author Henning Mankell from, site of the Swedish consulate

(reflections on two novels by Henning Mankell: THE MAN WHO SMILED (1994), trans. from Swedish by Laurie Thompson, and FIREWALL (2002), trans. by Ebba Segerberg. Vintage Crime / Black Lizard editions.)

In FIREWALL, the most recent of the novels by Henning Mankell that I've read, the title is ironic: In Mankell's world, which includes Sweden, Africa, and the USA, there is no firewall against the predators who use the internet, or international corporations to feed their appetites for domination.

Even being off the I.T. grid is no protection for detective Kurt Wallander. He can't open his own email, but his adversaries are watching him via internet, phone taps, and turncoats in his own police office.

Beneath all this, Wallander is insecure in himself. He is stalked in all these novels by age and its attendant infirmities, father's disapproval echoing even after death, loneliness, bleak prospects for retirement income, and the suspicion near - certainty that he is pursuing the wrong leads in his latest investigation.

There really is very little mystery in any of these novels. As with ONE STEP BEHIND (reviewed in June 2009), we have a pretty clear idea early on of what's up and who's doing it. Our sympathy is with Wallander as we root for him to figure out what we already know.

No comments: