Brendan Lyons's Reviews > The Troubled Man

The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
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Aug 01, 2012

really liked it

Scandinavian gloom reaches its fascinating apogee with this series of detective novels by Henning Mankell, of which The Troubled Man would appear to be the last. Kurt Wallender, the middle-aged police detective and anti-hero of the series, is a divorced, lonely, rather unhappy man, who happens to have a real talent for sniffing out the truth behind complicated criminal cases. Two television series (one English, starring Kenneth Branagh, and the other Swedish which is far more authentic if you can get your head around Swedish with subtitles - I swear you begin to understand the language more and more!) have been made about these books. The stories are centred around the town of Ystad on the southern tip of Sweden and the characters always seem to be hopping over to nearby Copenhagen for some R&R, possibly for relief from the rather earnest nature of rural Sweden. The plots are interesting because they bring in issues such as refugee-smuggling and the sometimes difficult relations between Sweden and its Baltic neighbours. The country's neutral role during WWII and it's ambivalent relationship to NATO also come under inspection. Wallender has a daughter Linda who has become involved with a young financier (working in Copenhagen, naturally!) whose parents suddenly disappear one after the other. The father was a former naval officer and submarine commander who was concerned with several (actual) Soviet submarine incursions into Swedish territorial waters during the early 1980s. There is more than a hint of political intrigue tying in to the pro-American attitudes of the Swedish military and its open distaste for the Social Democrat prime minister Olof Palme, who was assassinated on a Stockholm street in 1986, a crime which has never been solved to this day. Wallender, plagued by his failed marriage, dental problems, and his growing fear of death as he passes the 60 mark finds himself leaving his dog with his neighbours more and more ("Are you sure you don't want to sell him?") as he travels to Riga, Berlin and various parts of Sweden in an attempt to unravel the puzzle. There are times when one feels like giving him a good swift kick but his obduracy and dogged unrelenting approach to the problem elicit reluctant admiration. What really happened? Read (or listen to)the book!
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