Jenn's Reviews > One Step Behind

One Step Behind by Henning Mankell
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May 27, 10

bookshelves: fiction, mystery, novel, read-2010
Read in May, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Another Wallander, another mystery solved.

As I'd read "Firewall" first among the Wallander books, I knew that -- somewhere along the way -- Det. Svedberg had to die. I wasn't sure how it would happen, though, and I didn't anticipate at all the way that it unfolded here.

Kurt Wallander is (once again) caught between two major mysteries: the disappearance of three young people on Midsummer's Eve, and the murder of his colleague, Karl Evert Svedberg, in his apartment. When he finds a photo of the missing young people hidden in Svedberg's apartment, he realizes the cases must be connected -- and that it was Svedberg's interest in the case that ultimately led to his death. (Will Wallander meet the same fate, yada yada).

So in the last book I read, Wallander spent a bunch of time out of Sweden, and I thought that led to a lot of nice character evocation that's not always present. I'll go ahead and say that this book, published five books after The Dogs of Riga, does some excellent character development without sending Wallander any further away than Cophenhagen (and then only for an evening). How? Well, there's all kinds of lovely/tricky/awkward internal and personal conflicts throughout this book. The kids who go missing love to dress up in costumes to transport themselves back in time. How do you feel about that, Wallander? One of the survivors tries to kill herself, and Wallander saves her in a manner similar to his rescue of his own daughter. How do you feel about that, Wallander? His dead colleague told others that he considered Wallander his best friend, but it becomes clear that Wallander knows almost nothing about the man. How do you feel about that, Wallander? Your doctor says you have diabetes. Your ex-wife is getting remarried. Your father's house is about to be sold. How do you feel about that, Wallander?

What I'm saying, I guess, is that I still think the strength of this series lies in Mankell's dogged pursuit of revelation of character. These questions come up, but not just as plot points to be ignored/discarded. They're actually answered by the character. It's what keeps me reading about this guy -- he shows an ability to change, and a fear of doing it, that I find more mysterious and fascinating than all the gruesome crime sprees in all of Sweden.
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