Saturday 5 November 2011

REVIEW: Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell (4.5*)

(Vintage, 2002)

I'd already come across Kurt Wallander thanks to the excellent Kenneth Branagh series, but this is the first time I've picked up one of the original novels.  Happily, I liked it so much that I'm all ready to go on a rampage and buy the rest of the books AND the two television series.  I love it when that happens!

The novel opens with the discovery of a horrific murder in the isolated farming community of Lunnarp.  Called in by a terrified neighbour, Inspector Wallander arrives to find a mutilated and bloodied old man dead in his farmhouse bedroom.  His wife is alive, but only barely, with a noose cruelly knotted around her neck.  Armed with a host of confusing clues, uneasy hunches and the word 'foreign', repeated by the old woman on her deathbed, Wallander and his team must pull out all the stops to find the killers before the media storm around the case sparks a national wave of racial hate crime.

I found the whole novel absolutely fascinating, and it was a great brain work-out.  I couldn't stop mulling over everything that had happened so far, and every time I put the book down I was itching to get back to it again!  I think it helps that the reader is basically inside Kurt Wallander's mind from start to finish, even though it's written in the third person.  He's a thoughtful, clever, kind and immensely human character, with a fierce sense of justice and a touch of quiet vulnerability - the kind of cop every reader will be rooting for!  I also liked that this was very much a procedural novel, rather than a forensic gorefest, and the way the Swedish setting really came to life on the page.  Mr Mankell - you have another new convert!  Highly recommended.

Source: I think I found this book in a charity shop?  Maybe?