Don's Reviews > The Man Who Smiled

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell
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M 50x66
's review
Aug 17, 2011

it was ok
Read in August, 2011

This is my second book in this police procedural series, set in a small city in southern Sweden. I found this less than fully compelling. Here are some of my problems with the book:

1. The pacing is slow, and the book bogs down a bit in the middle.

2. The mystery at the heart of the book is suspected financial crime by the principal of a large and secretive complex of businesses. The murder of several people, and the attempted murder of a couple of others, trigger the police investigation and apparently were engineered in order to cover up the financial improprieties. However, Mankell never explains clearly what the financial activities are, and never attempts to explain what the first victim discovered that led to his murder. For a book ultimately based on financial crime, the description of the business aspects is very unsophisticated.

3. Police procedurals typically proceed by having the investigating police officers build up evidence, and thereby unravel the mystery, by individual acts of investigation, research, analysis of physical evidence, etc.; as the evidence accumulates, they are able to piece together the story. Successful books in this genre build suspense and cause the reader to become invested in the story by the gradual revelation of the truth through the careful, painstaking and pedestrian investigation. Mankell simply doesn't build his story particularly well. The guilty party is suspected for much of the book, but evidence doesn't really accumulate, and obvious targets of investigation don't seem to be thought of. In fact, the police in this case acquire very little actual evidence, and the guilt party is demonstrated only through an absurdly silly, television-like confession at the end.

Having read two books in this series, I have no interest whatsoever in reading any others. I think I have one more on my "to read" shelves, in which case I may read it at some point, but I certainly won't buy any more of Mankell's books.
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