Anthony McIntyre 🔖 A Swedish housewife vanishes in 1993. 


She seemed to live a predictable existence with her focus on her husband and family. It is out of character for her to go on a solo run and there was no history of her playing away from the matrimonial home.

Within days her body is retrieved and even more shocking to those who knew and loved her, she was the victim of murder.  Lacking the wayward forensic feature of a ricochet or crossfire, a shot to the forehead bore the hallmarks of a clinical execution that suggested gangland. To police minds, whoever took the shot had taken it carefully. But why? Her error seems to have been nothing more than to have lost her way on a journey through woodland.

The investigation develops with Kurt Wallander assuming the lead. While the victim had no interest in extra marital activity someone outside the marriage had an interest in her. A stalker figured and lent itself to the cops concluding they have their man. He too has gone missing which makes the cops even more suspicious and certain that their suspect has a story to tell. Turns out he was only on holiday and his alibi is watertight. Suddenly, their man is not their man after all and so the hunt for the killer widens. 

What at first seems an unrelated incident acquires a different complexion linking Sweden's yawning Ystad to South Africa's Pretoria. Political intrigue causes the narrative to open up like a flower to reveal at its heart a racist hatred and desire to kill. In some of the Scandinavian crime fiction covered in these reviews, the storyline does not always restrict itself to the host country. When it crosses borders it tends to separate the noir from scandi. This dilution runs against the grain of the Scandinoir purist, particularly as Wallander does not actually travel to South Africa as part of the investigation. 

Yet Mankell knows his territory well, having spent much time in Africa where he worked as a theatre director. Particularly endearing is the ongoing dialogue between the dead and the living, providing as it does considerable insight into native African cultural traditions. The irreligious mind might resile from such constructs but they are so real to those who have culturally imbibed them alongside milk from their mothers' breasts, that while their presence can be regarded as myth, the power of myth should never be understated. 

Wallander's journey takes him abroad but not geographically. He crisscrosses the terrain of his own mind which is not the terra firma he might have hoped for. He ventures off the radar during the manhunt. The flaws in a truly mercurial investigator are breaking through. In most Western police forces the path he took would have led to the exit door.

The character development is top notch: Menkell has the reader feeling the malevolence of Wallander's foreign adversaries, who are not all from the same nation. The Ystad detective finds himself pitched against a hybrid force formed from dying but competing ideologies: their death rattle no less dangerous than their lives' work in the dark arts.

Wallander shares with Harry Hole and Harry Bosch that obsessive devotion to catching killers. Such characters hardly exist in real life if for no other reason than their phenomenal success rates. How many murders can there be for these guys to solve?

Of the three Wallander novels read so far Faceless Killers remains the best. White Lioness comes with a great plot, political intrigues, merciless operatives who worship at the altar of dictatorship, while drilling down into the methodical intricacies of police procedure when working a murder case. Its drawback is that it stretched on beyond what was necessary to make it brilliant. 

Henning Mankell, 2003, The White Lioness. Published @ Vintage. ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0099464693


Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

White Lioness

Anthony McIntyre 🔖 A Swedish housewife vanishes in 1993. 


She seemed to live a predictable existence with her focus on her husband and family. It is out of character for her to go on a solo run and there was no history of her playing away from the matrimonial home.

Within days her body is retrieved and even more shocking to those who knew and loved her, she was the victim of murder.  Lacking the wayward forensic feature of a ricochet or crossfire, a shot to the forehead bore the hallmarks of a clinical execution that suggested gangland. To police minds, whoever took the shot had taken it carefully. But why? Her error seems to have been nothing more than to have lost her way on a journey through woodland.

The investigation develops with Kurt Wallander assuming the lead. While the victim had no interest in extra marital activity someone outside the marriage had an interest in her. A stalker figured and lent itself to the cops concluding they have their man. He too has gone missing which makes the cops even more suspicious and certain that their suspect has a story to tell. Turns out he was only on holiday and his alibi is watertight. Suddenly, their man is not their man after all and so the hunt for the killer widens. 

What at first seems an unrelated incident acquires a different complexion linking Sweden's yawning Ystad to South Africa's Pretoria. Political intrigue causes the narrative to open up like a flower to reveal at its heart a racist hatred and desire to kill. In some of the Scandinavian crime fiction covered in these reviews, the storyline does not always restrict itself to the host country. When it crosses borders it tends to separate the noir from scandi. This dilution runs against the grain of the Scandinoir purist, particularly as Wallander does not actually travel to South Africa as part of the investigation. 

Yet Mankell knows his territory well, having spent much time in Africa where he worked as a theatre director. Particularly endearing is the ongoing dialogue between the dead and the living, providing as it does considerable insight into native African cultural traditions. The irreligious mind might resile from such constructs but they are so real to those who have culturally imbibed them alongside milk from their mothers' breasts, that while their presence can be regarded as myth, the power of myth should never be understated. 

Wallander's journey takes him abroad but not geographically. He crisscrosses the terrain of his own mind which is not the terra firma he might have hoped for. He ventures off the radar during the manhunt. The flaws in a truly mercurial investigator are breaking through. In most Western police forces the path he took would have led to the exit door.

The character development is top notch: Menkell has the reader feeling the malevolence of Wallander's foreign adversaries, who are not all from the same nation. The Ystad detective finds himself pitched against a hybrid force formed from dying but competing ideologies: their death rattle no less dangerous than their lives' work in the dark arts.

Wallander shares with Harry Hole and Harry Bosch that obsessive devotion to catching killers. Such characters hardly exist in real life if for no other reason than their phenomenal success rates. How many murders can there be for these guys to solve?

Of the three Wallander novels read so far Faceless Killers remains the best. White Lioness comes with a great plot, political intrigues, merciless operatives who worship at the altar of dictatorship, while drilling down into the methodical intricacies of police procedure when working a murder case. Its drawback is that it stretched on beyond what was necessary to make it brilliant. 

Henning Mankell, 2003, The White Lioness. Published @ Vintage. ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0099464693


Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

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