Henning Mankell, The Man Who Smiled
The Kurt Wallander police detective stories by Henning Mankell is one of the most liked series of recent years. Wallander is the detective with heart and soul. The character of Wallander has a special quality, and we become acquainted with his personal problems – his health condition is almost a metaphor for the state of modern Sweden. In this novel the author is haunted by the murder in 1986 of Sweden’s prime minister, Olof Palme. This incident was a major factor is loosening belief in the basis of modern institutions, particularly in the authority of social democracy. This sense of doubt and gloom pervades the novel. This Scorpion edition of “The Man Who Smiled” contains a nice appreciation by Diamond Dagger winner John Harvey.
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Some of the most trenchant social reality novels have come from the Swede Henning Mankell. The deserved winner of the CWA Gold Dagger with Sidetracked, it was a turning-point in the reception of Scandinavian crime with both readers and publishers in the Anglo-Saxon world. As a consequence a good deal more European crime fiction was translated into English. Inevitably, “Wallander is one of the great creations of modern crime fiction” said Barry Forshaw, and further “overweight, diabetes-ridden and with all the problems of modern society leaving scars on his soul”. He made it to the TV screens with Kenneth Branagh in the lead; but not before the books had been highly successful in a home-grown Swedish series. Mankell is married to Eva Bergman, daughter of legendary Swedish film maker Ingmar Bergman.
What makes Mankell’s books interesting though is his taught writing and dry Scandinavian perspective. Wallander is a homicide detective in a smaller Swedish town, Ystad, and continually comes up against the problems that plague larger cities. Often a small crime will reveal something like international drug gangs or human trafficking. The character of Wallander has a special quality, at work he has the bit between his teeth and wont let go. Then we become acquainted with his personal problems – his health condition is almost a metaphor for the state of modern Sweden. But above all his fans will him on. Enjoy.
Plotline: A disillusioned Inspector Kurt Wallander is thrown back into the fray when he becomes both hunter and hunted in this adventure from the pen of Sweden’s master of crime and mystery. Crestfallen, dejected and spiralling into an alcohol-fuelled depression after killing a man in the line of duty, Inspector Kurt Wallander has made up his mind to quit the police force for good. When an old acquaintance, a solicitor, seeks Wallander’s help to investigate the suspicious circumstances in which his father has died, Kurt doesn’t want to know. But when the solicitor also turns up dead, shot three times, Wallander realises that he was wrong not to listen. Against his better judgement, he returns to work to head what may now have become a double murder case. A rookie female detective has joined the force is his absence, and he adopts the role of mentor to her as they fight to unravel the mystery. An enigmatic big-business tycoon, who hides behind an entourage of brusque secretaries and tight security, seems to be the common denominator in the two deaths. But while Wallander is on the trail of the killer, somebody is on the trail of Wallander, and closing in fast.
In this novel the author is haunted by the murder in 1986 of Sweden’s prime minister, Olof Palme. This incident was a major factor is loosening belief in the basis of modern institutions, particularly in the authority of social democracy. This sense of doubt and gloom pervades the novel. The Man Who Smiled was issued in 2005 in a run of 80 signed and numbered copies in a special binding. It was a delight to have John Harvey accept our invitation to write the appreciation of the author. John recalls in his piece that he suggested that Mankell would win with Sidetracked at the Crime Writers’ award ceremony; this is because Mankell was one of a select group of writers that John followed. Mankell’s book did indeed win and the result was that he brought ‘crime in a cold climate’ to the forefront.