Alana's Reviews > The Man from Beijing

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
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's review
Oct 09, 2011

did not like it
Read from September 01 to October 01, 2011

This is one of the worst books I've ever read. Maybe I should back up and say that I don't like crime fiction and that the only reason I read this book is that it was given to me as a gift from my in-laws (who I now respect less for recommending this garbage. I kid. Sort of).

Internationally bestselling novelist? This is a joke, right? The author is in serious need of a thesaurus because you can only read the same descriptive phrase so many times in a single page, let alone paragraph (perhaps this frustration would more appropriately be directed at the translator?). There are a million irrelevant and tedious details thrown in, and the dialogue is so poorly written it's just painfully awkward. Here is an excerpt from when the protagonist is in Beijing and is approached by a young man:
"Are you lost? Can I help you?"
"I'm just looking at that handsome building over there. Do you know who owns it?"
He shook his head in surprise.
"I study to be veterinarian. I know nothing of tall buildings. Can I help you? I try to teach me speak better English."
"Your English is very good." She pointed up at the projecting terrace. "I wonder who lives there?"
"Somebody very rich."
"Can you help me?" she said. She took out the photograph of Wang Min Hao. "Can you go over to the guards and ask them if they know this man. If they ask why you want to know, just say somebody asked you to give him a message."
"What message?"
"Tell them you'll fetch it. Come back here. I shall wait by the hospital entrance."
"Why not ask them yourself?" he said.
"I'm too shy. I don't think a Western woman on her own should ask about a Chinese man."
"Do you know him?"
"Yes." ... "One more thing," she said. "Ask them who lives up there, on the top floor. It looks like an apartment with a big terrace."
"My name is Huo," he said. "I will ask."
"My name's Birgitta. Just pretend to be interested."
"Where you from? U.S.A.?"
"Sweden. Ruidian, I think it's called in Chinese."
"I do not know where that is."
"It's almost impossible to explain."

Is it? Is it really? Ever hear of a place called Europe? Well, it's there. In the north. Off the Baltic Sea. All of the dialogue is so unnatural it just made me cringe and laugh in disbelief.

Also, you already have a complete picture of what's happened from the half way point of the book but are forced to go over it all again from someone else's perspective. The climax, therefore, is extremely anticlimactic, and all the loose ends are neatly tied up with this neat explanation: "There were...many details that still weren't explained...There were threads that would continue to hang loose, perhaps forever." Wow, I guess he heard that deadline approaching and had to put things somewhere fast.

Oh, and the whole story revolves around a court judge who consistently exhibits poor judgment in everyday dealings. Come ON!
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12/18/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Blaming the book for your own shortcomings as a reader--why do you even bother wasting your breath writing about the book. Clearly you haven't ever read a bad book or you wouldn't be putting Mankell in that category.

Alana So you're saying he's only comparatively bad? Interesting approach. But you're right; probably had I been a more careful reader I would've really liked the book. Then I wouldn't have had to waste my breath with any of that silly review nonsense because it would have been too good to worry about.

message 3: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Schirmer Great review, you saved me from this dreck. Too bad, as we love the "Wallander" series. And he was married to Bergman's daughter!

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