All good things come to an end, and for everyone’s favorite Swedish detective, this is it. It’s the last Kurt Wallander novel from Henning Mankell about the complex and troubled rural Swedish detective with an uncanny ability to stumble into spectacular murder cases.
Wallender’s last big case
The Troubled Man is aptly titled. The book tells the story of Wallender’s last big investigation, taking him deeply into Sweden’s politically complex past and arousing self-doubt that is more profound than ever. As Wallender pursues the baffling disappearance of a retired Swedish naval official, he learns ugly truths about his country’s recent history. The Troubled Man, though partly an exploration of one man’s complex character, is also a fascinating tale of espionage told through the eyes of a brilliant detective as he slowly sorts through the contradictory facts he encounters. This is a Kurt Wallander novel that measures up to the best of the author’s work.
The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallender #9) by Henning Mankell (2011) 385 pages ★★★★☆
Wallander’s backstory as a Left activist
Mankell is an even more interesting character than his signature protagonist. He had a long history as a leftist activist, having participated in the explosive events of 1968. Later, as a young man in the 1970s, he lived and collaborated for a time with a Norwegian Maoist. He has lived in Africa for many years and was actively engaged in promoting Mozambique’s independence from Portugal. Recently, he was on board the ship that attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
About the author
Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm in 1948 and died in 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden. He was a prolific writer, with more plays to his name than novels. He was married to Eva Bergman, daughter of the legendary director, Ingmar Bergman, and was involved in a creating a mini-series for Swedish television about his father-in-law. Mankell spent at least half of every year in Maputo, Mozambique, where he was the director of a theater for many years.
The 13 Wallender novels (including one featuring his daughter, Linda, also a police detective) are intensely political. Though Wallender, the detective, is apolitical, Mankell himself has been actively engaged in public affairs for more than four decades. The underlying theme in all his novels is what Mankell views as the disintegration of Swedish society in recent decades, with crime, and especially violent crime, rising sharply, contentious debates over immigration, and ever nastier political discourse. “What went wrong?” Mankell asks.
For more reading
For a guide to the best Scandinavian mysteries and thrillers, check out The best Nordic noir series from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.
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