Tori Hoeschler's Reviews > The Man Who Smiled

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell
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's review
Feb 04, 2010

did not like it
Read from January 14 to February 02, 2010

Ok, by my definition, this book is not a mystery. This is a book ABOUT a mystery, and unless I'm totally missing a point here, it's just not a good book at all.
Here we have a story about a detective, Kurt Wallander, who has come out of retirement to solve the mysterious death and apparent murder of two local attorneys. I'm just going to stop right here and say that the reason he goes into retirement is because he's conflicted over killing some criminal in a face off I assume took place in a previous book in the series. The author must've been so pleased with his initial telling of this prequel climax that he feels compelled to reference it almost every other page of this book, and let me tell you, it gets old. FAST. We get it: Wallander feels bad about killing a man in the line of duty so let's all take some Paxl and move on with our lives.

Now, less than 20 pages into the book the reader is told who the killer is so in my experience, when you know who did it, the remainder of the book is typically dedicated to fleshing out a really intriguing back story that ultimately leads to additional suspense at the end. Not the case here. Not only are you told who did it, but you get to spend the next 250 pages waiting for our melancholy hero to catch up to your foregone conclusion. Think that's fun? Well you're wrong. You don't actually get to read about how he catches up to the conclusion; you get to read about how he feels about catching up. There is literally a 30 page section where the author pontificates about how Wallander can't help but feel that something is amiss. His can just feel it in his gut. Three people have turned up dead, two more murders have been attempted, including an attempt on Wallander himself, and his gut is telling him something is amiss. Congrats, Wallander, your gut has a profound grasp of the obvious.
What I'm assuming was meant for a dramatic ending is actually a melodramatic, unbelievable 20 page stint at the very end of the book that actually had me saying out loud, "You have to be kidding me. I waited 300 pages for THIS??? That was it???" Absolutely infuriating!
Again, I say it, maybe I'm missing something but this is one of the most tedious and un-gratifying non-mysteries I've ever read.
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