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Books 37-38: Firewall and The Return of the Dancing Master

Book 37: Firewall (Kurt Wallander 08).
Author: Henning Mankell, 1998. Translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg, 2002.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 534 pages.

A man is found dead at an ATM, the apparent victim of a heart attack. A day or so later two teenage girls are arrested for a brutal attack on a cab driver that leaves him mortally wounded. The girls confess, showing no remorse for their crime. At first these appear to be two open-and-shut unrelated cases. However, as Wallander seeks to understand why the girls murdered the cab driver an unexpected link between the two cases is revealed and he uncovers a conspiracy that is much more complex and wide-ranging than he could have imagined.

Poor old Kurt Wallander! In this novel he is feeling more and more out of place in a world increasingly dominated by computers and the internet. I had waited a while to read this book, partly because until the release of The Troubled Man this year it was the last Wallander novel, so I wanted to prolong the goodbye to a beloved character and partly because I had watched the BBC's 2008 adaptation and wanted some time to pass before I tackled the book. So while I knew the general plot and outcome, it remained a satisfying read for the characterisations, sub-plots and Mankell's close attention to the details of the investigation.

Book 38: The Return of the Dancing Master.
Author: Henning Mankell, 2000. Translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson, 2003.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 520 pages.

The main character of this stand-alone police procedural.is Stefan Lindman, a young police detective on extended sick leave. When he hears about the brutal murder of Herbert Molin, a retired police detective who had been his partner early in his career, he decides to investigate. He travels to Northern Sweden and teams up with a local police detective who welcomes his input. The inquiry becomes increasingly complex and dangerous as Lindman uncovers the links between Herbert Molin's death and a global web of neo-Nazi activity.

Mankell always includes social and political themes in his crime novels and here it is the continuing influence of the Nazi movement in Europe. The narrative takes an unexpected turn part way through as the perspective shifts in some chapters to the murderer. In this case, knowing whodunit challenges readers' preconceptions and actually increases the mystery. I have come to trust Mankell and he again delivered a compelling story with plenty of twists and turns.

Mankell's novels are 'slow burns' rather than 'thrill-a-minute' types and the complexity of the plot does warrant close attention. My slight disappointment was that Stefan in the novel bore little relationship to Stefan Lindman as he appeared in the first season of Yellow Bird TV series, developed from Mankell's story treatments. Yes, I had a bit of a crush on that Stefan but less so on the his original incarnation in the novel.
Tags: crime fiction, internet, police drama, translation
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