Teresa Lukey's Reviews > Firewall

Firewall by Henning Mankell
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Jun 01, 12

bookshelves: i-learned-something, kept-me-wondering, 4-stars
Read from June 14 to 17, 2011

There is no doubt that the Scandinavian crime novels I have read thus far fail to disappoint. After reading Stieg Larsson and now my first Henning Mankell, either the Swed's are really creative in creating some really messed up situations or Sweden is a pretty messed up place to live.

This crime is relatively twisted and complex, but I didn't find the ending as exciting as other crime novels, hence the 4 star rating.

The investigator at the forefront of the story is Kurt Wallander, which I found quite amusing with his "poor me" attitude. In this story, Wallander is tied to two seemingly unrelated events that find connection later in the story.

After reading this novel, I found myself researching Sweden's statistics to determine if there is any truth to the craziness that these Swedish writers are churning out. I decided the best way for me to gauge Sweden's situation, would be a direct comparison of US and Swedish statistics. I looked at crime rates vs. population and I also read a little into the gun laws in Sweden. I chose these two topics because in the novels coming out of Sweden people are killed but other cruel and twisted methods like being chainsawed alive and Wallander didn't even carry a gun in this novel. The guns laws were of particular interest to me because if Wallander didn't carry a gun and people are being killed in other cruel and unusual ways I have to assume that guns are difficult to get or outlawed.

First the crime data:
Sweden has 1.23m total reports of crime
The U.S. has 11.87m total reports of crime
That doesn't seem too bad, but when you look at total population, that's another story.
U.S population is 298.44m
Swedish population is 9.01m

Using that data, I calculate that only 3.9% of the total US population is affected by crime, whereas 13.7% of the Swedish population is affected by crime. That sounds pretty scary to me, so that leads me to believe that the rape stats in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are no joke.

Moving on the gun laws in Sweden. It seems to be a very complex system with many laws and restrictions in place in an attempt to regulate who has guns and how many they can have. I have to assume that it difficult to afford a gun in the first place due to the fact that people of Sweden have a considerably lower GDP per capita, which I assume is in large part to the heavy taxation. People of Sweden only take home 40-50% of their earnings. YIKES! The US has a 36% higher GDP per capita and only looses approximately 30% to taxation.

If you happen to have enough money to acquire a sidearm, you have to be an active member of a club that competes with that particular gun and you have to be tested for competition. That means you have to hit 46 of your 50 possible shots in the center target and receive a letter from the club indicating that you are ready for competition. For the most part, Sweden does not allow people to own a gun for self-protection. There are somewhere between 10 and 100 people who have been granted this privileged. Considering GDP is so low, reducing the number of people who can purchase a firearm and pay for being a active member of a club, I think it is pretty likely that most people do not have guns in Sweden leaving criminals to find other crazy ways to eliminate people.

If you are interested in looking at any of these stats and doing some of your own research into these dynamics of Sweden driving the novels coming out of that country, check out this site:

There are many promising stats coming out of that country, like low teenage birth rate and on average people are 5 years older when they get married, again, compared to US stats.

Hopefully, I didn't get too out of line with this review, I'm a stats girl and just couldn't help it.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Savage Bloody Swedes!

USA folks do not realize that in Europe you actually get something for your taxes, like universal health care, while here in the States, so much of our tax money goes to a bloated military, public support for industries like oil that are making barrels of money, and ever increasing tax breaks for those at the top. To that extent, all working people are being raped every day, by the wealthy and their tools in DC and state capitals. If you consider what is taken out of salaries for health insurance, for those fortunate enough to be covered, then add the co-payments and deductibles, those are effectively taxes, and they add up. For the tens of millions who lack coverage, whatever they have to spend on medical care is, in effect, a tax, and the poor are, as usual, taxed at a much higher rate than the wealthy. An interesting comparison might be how "fairly" nations tax their people and businesses. Meaning, to me, how stratified the tax rates are. The rich should be paying a much higher rate than working stiffs, and income from non-work sources should be taxed as well. Usually discussion of taxes omits mention of social security withholding, and sales taxes, which working people pay with their food money, while the wealthy pay with their yacht money.
(Sadly, the folks who call themselves "fair tax" supporters, in contemporary Newspeak, would make things worse, eliminating income taxes entirely and making the sales tax king. Gee, who would that hurt? It would be more accurate to call such folks "Even Less Fair Tax" supporters)

GDP has nothing to do with taxation, but measures production pre-tax.

Teresa Lukey I hate politics because it seems there is never balance and there is always corruption, but while looking through the data I found myself wondering about so many aspects of different societies that I never thought of before.

message 3: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Wondering is always a good thing, but leaving politics to politicians is a form of abdication. There remains analysis, the better to see through the lies and misdirections.

message 4: by Jill (new)

Jill Teresa, I found your statistics very intriguing. I will leave the tax discussion to you and Will, although I agree with him that our tax laws are unfair and our system is totally out of whack. The Swedes seem to be cranking out crime books, and the crime data and gun laws are not well-known...at least to me. Thanks for a very instructive review.

bookczuk I'm a huge fan of Scandinavian crime/mystery/noir books and have really enjoyed Henning Mankell's work for a long time. I hear he asked for Kenneth Brannaugh to play Wallendar in the movie.

Try Jo Nesbø (read his Harry Hole books in order though, starting with Redbreast) or Jim Thompson (also best read in order starting with Snow Angels) for a look into Norway and Finland, respectively. Others too, but my mind's gone blank.

switterbug (Betsey) Teresa, you have generated some passionate thoughts. Will is so right. In Sweden, health care is part of their "rights," whereas in US, it is a privilege. It should be a right!

Politics aside, great review. And my husband and I are really enjoying Swedish and Nordic mysteries in general.

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