viernes, 19 de noviembre de 2010

Faceless Killers


Faceless Killers [Mördare utan ansikte] (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2003)
by Henning Mankell [translated from the Swedish by Steven T. Murray]
Sweden, 1991

For someone who's now read a grand total of all of one Henning Mankell titles in his entire life, I have to ask: Stieg who???  Hotshit Swede police procedural that's sort of like the reading equivalent of downing a 72-ounce Big Gulp and following it up with a couple of cups of coffee afterward.  Found myself rushing to plow through this book and am now finding myself impatiently waiting to get going on a second Mankell offering before the month is out.  Ironically, I'm not entirely sure why the book produced such an effect in me.  Inspector Kurt Wallander's an interesting enough lead character, to be sure: a flawed but sympathetic everyman trying to make some sense out of the senselessness he confronts in his personal and professional lives.  I also enjoyed seeing how the murder investigation itself--as in Maj Sjöwall's and Per Wahlöö's The Laughing Policeman, a lesser work Mankell discreetly tips his hat to at one point (144)--was portrayed as having been conducted and then solved collaboratively through a combination of routine policework and blind luck rather than by any superhuman feats of deductive prowess by a single individual.  And Wallander's sense that Sweden is changing for the worse, losing the battle to drug-related crime and gripped by an anti-immigrant fever that he in part understands, clearly adds some depth to the story as a whole.  But other than that, I'm afraid I'm at a loss to explain this whole Mankell thing yet.  Not my problem--any more room on that bandwagon?  (http://www.vintagebooks.com/)

Henning Mankell

15 comentarios:

  1. He is one of the most read of the Nordic writers in Germany and Switzerland. I read some of his novels and felt exactly like you. I liked it but kept on asking myself "What is actually so appealing?". I am reading an Icelandic crime writer at present and there are some resemblances. A tad bleaker though. Don't you think Wallander has a lot in common with Simenon's Maigret? But what is it that makes us like them? They are pretty disillusioned guys, no? I haven't read Larsson yet but I hear he is even better. Wallander is very rounded, very real, has many facettes.

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  2. I think Larsson would have been very much Stieg Who if he hadn't come up with the character of Lisbeth Salander.

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  3. Jealous. Been trying to make a little room for Wallander myself. Want something undemanding that I can just plow through. The feeling you describe without needing the Big Gulp and coffee. :)

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  4. *Caroline: I haven't read much Simenon, but I'm kind of glad to hear that Wallander reminds you of Maigret. That should be a lot of books to keep me busy between the two of them! I think Wallander's disillusionment makes him feel more real to me somehow, but of course that's easier to do in one novel than in a series. In any event, interesting to hear how similar our reactions were to Mankell.

    *Jill: I love the Salander character from the movies, but I also like the Blomkvist character. Look forward to reading Larsson one of these days to see if he lives up to the hype.

    *Frances: I haven't had a Big Gulp in years, but I enjoyed the Mankell equivalent all the same! Think you'd like this one based on what you say you're looking for and Mankell's ability to draw you in with his lead characters.

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  5. I haven't read any Mankell, although I did watch the first episode of the PBS/Masterpiece Theater televisation of Walander and thought it was really very good (though can you go wrong with anything that has Kenneth Branagh in it?). I had read some mixed things about the actual Walander books, so I wasn't sure if they'd be my speed. The fact that you enjoyed this so much definitely suggests I should give it a shot... and really, in my mind, anything is better than Stieg Whatshisface!

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  6. I've been curious about Mankell but haven't yet dared take the plunge. I have nothing against the genre, it's just that I don't know where to start. Loved Larsson (tho' the first movie bored me to sleep). I'll take your post as an endorsement.

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  7. I've wondered about these books, having seen the BBC/PBS Wallander adaptations. Reading your comments, I may have to add a Mankell to my TBR list. I've had a hankering for some good crime fiction lately...

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  8. I don't know, Richard - "Henning Mankell" is suspiciously lacking in umlauts. Still, I see that the original Swedish title had at least one, so I'll give him a pass this time. :-)

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  9. *Steph: I don't watch much TV other than some sports here and there, but I'd love to catch that Wallander series one day--will have to keep my eyes out for it. In the meantime, you made me laugh with your Stieg Whatshisface comment (I'd remembered somewhere you saying you didn't enjoy him)!

    *Isabella: I started with the first book in the Wallander series and picked up the second one last night--plan on reading them chronologically unless/until I run into a dud. As for the movie adaptations of the Stieg Larsson novels, I thought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was mostly entertaining and The Girl Who Played with Fire was mostly awful. Not sure what that says about my credibility, though!

    *Amanda: Another fan of the BBC/PBS Mankell--I feel so left out! I like crime fiction from time to time, too, but I don't read it as much as I once did for some reason. Am in the middle of a crime wave right now, though, ha ha!

    *Emily: Ha, "Henning Mankell" definitely doesn't qualify for that umlaut-laden sonority you're talking about! Good thing he can write OK... :D

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  10. Great post Richard, I am not a fan of the Larsson novels (though weirdly I think the films are brilliant) I am a fan of Mankell thought and have just got The Dogs of Riga out from the library!

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  11. *Simon: Thanks, mate--and how funny to hear about you and Larsson in the books and films department! I started The Dogs of Riga yesterday and now have a much better idea of why Mankell's so enjoyable to me so far. Happy reading!

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  12. Ha, I had almost the exact same reaction to reading this book. (a) give me more, (b) Wallander is pretty cool, (c) I'm not really sure why I like it this much, but see (a).

    I note also your post about Dogs of Riga and would guess that our reactions were also similar on that one, haha. Haven't picked up other Mankell since but I do want to.

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  13. *Nicole: Ha ha, that is too funny! Of course, now I'm jealous that your a-b-c summation is way more succint than my post was. I'll read the third Wallander novel one of these days, but The Dogs of Riga was so cliché-ridden that I'm going to have to allow some time in between first. Felt like I was reading the book equivalent of a bad spy/action movie in places!

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  14. I have read all of the Wallander mysteries and the first two by Steig Larsson. I'll take Wallander any day.

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  15. *Fred: I was disappointed by the second Wallander novel I read, but I enjoyed it enough that I'll read a third one all the same. Thanks for the visit!

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