Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

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Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The first book in the Kurt Wallander series has a good plot and characterisation - it's a real page-turner. Not recommended to buy as there are problems with the editing of the book which make it an annoying read in places.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: September 2002
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0099445220

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When Inspector Kurt Wallander is summoned to an isolated farmhouse one freezing January morning he thinks that it will be nothing more than a routine call-out. Instead he finds that the elderly farmer, Johannes Lövgren, has been brutally killed and his wife is near death. All that Maria Lövgren can tell the investigators before she too dies is that the killers were foreign. When the press get hold of this there's a tide of racial hatred, and Wallander is left with a double murder to solve as well as the responsibility for the protection of an unknown number of asylum seekers.

This book had me hooked right from the beginning. The plot is excellent, particularly if you're a fan of police-procedural novels. This is where the story is based on the patient accumulation of evidence and elimination of suspects. There are enough twists and turns, red herrings and dead ends to keep you turning the pages. I found myself reading into the early hours of the morning just to find out what happened. The ending was ingenious and in keeping with all that had gone before. I closed the book with a real glow of enjoyment.

Few characters arrive on the scene as fully-formed as Kurt Wallander. His wife has left him, his daughter won't speak to him and even his elderly father struggles to exchange more than a few words with him. He lives in untidy and neglected flat, drinks too much and his diet is on the dreadful side of poor. You can't help warming to him though. He's a fallible man trying to do his best under pressure. His father is an eccentric bordering on senility; both are marvellous characters as is Rydberg, Wallander's partner in the investigation. The women in the story are less well developed, as in all the Wallander novels that I've read. This is essentially a story by a man about men and the women are there as supporting cast.

There is violence in the story but it's not overdone or gratuitous. I did think that I was going to find the description of the initial crime scene too gruesome for my taste, but it was handled with sensitivity. The build up of dramatic tension produced more effect than any number of gory details. There are other scenes of violence and death but they're similarly handled. Sexual references are few and far between and I wouldn't think that they could offend even the most prudish.

Mankell is skilled at painting word pictures of the landscape in this part of Sweden - the Skäne area to the east of Malmö. The story begins in the depths of winter and the descriptions of the frozen landscape and extreme weather conditions actually made me feel cold. The area, particularly along the Baltic coast, seemed desolate and unforgiving. It's not an area with which I'm at all familiar and the map at the front of the book helped me to follow the story.

The book was originally written in Swedish in 1991. It doesn't feel like a fifteen-year-old book though as some of the issues, such as asylum seekers and immigration are as relevant today. It was translated into English by Steven T Murray in 1997. I can only judge the quality of the translation by considering the prose as published - I have no way of comparing the English version with the original Swedish. Some of the later Wallander novels are translated by Laurie Thompson and I thought that Thompson produced a better, more flowing text than Murray. It didn't mar my enjoyment of the novel though.

What did take away from the book was the poor editing of the text. I lost count of the number of times that words grew hyphens for no rea-son. Line breaks appear in the most
unnatural places and there are even occasions when words are joinedtogether. These aren't isolated incidents; there are sometimes several on a page. When I read I don't want to notice the text - it's like breathing - you should only notice it when there's something wrong. I've had a similar, but not so extreme, problem with another Wallander novel published by Vintage. I've never before deducted a star because of poor editing but this is deserved as it's an intrusive problem.

I seem to be reading the Kurt Wallander series of detective stories in a rather strange order. I started with the third, then the second and I've just finished reading Faceless Killers, the first novel in the series. There are slight give-aways (of incidental details rather than plot lines) if you read them in the wrong order, but not to the extent that they marred my enjoyment of any of the books.

The book is recommended to borrow in view of the problems with the text.

Buy Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell at Amazon.com.


Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander Novels in Chronological Order

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