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Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
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's review
Sep 09, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: mystery, swedish-lit
Read in September, 2010

I remember a discussion I had years ago with a friend of mine about Jonathon Demme's film version of The Silence of the Lambs. We were both annoyed by the pacing of the film and joked that it was really the story of an FBI agent driving her car, with some dialogue thrown in to liven things up.

I felt a bit that way reading Faceless Killers, the first Wallander book by Henning Mankell. I don't know if it was only this first Wallander mystery (it's the first I've read too) or if it is a common theme in Mankell's work, but the writing is obsessed with time. Time of day, seasons, days of the week, months, we are constantly being reminded when we are in the story. But that's not such a bad thing.

What Mankell achieves with his use of time, whether he meant to or not, is an expression of what I imagine is the reality of police work: waiting, waiting and more waiting.

We are so used to the slick, Hollywood version of crime stories that we expect everything to come together quickly, cleanly, logically. We expect the perpetrators to make big mistakes, the crime scene investigators to find some smoking DNA, the Detectives to put all the pieces together as if by magic. That's not how it really happens, though, and investigations take time. It makes for some boring bits in the book, but boring in a way that reflects the police lifestyle.

As for the main character, Wallander spends more time in Faceless Killers worrying about his ailing father, obsessing over his failed marriage, and feeling generally sorry for himself than he does thinking about the case. Yet he still manages to work on the case with the tenacity of a bedbug, and six months after the killings, with nothing but perseverance, he gets the break in the case he needs and finds the killers.

Faceless Killers isn't a classic "whodunnit" style mystery; there's no way for a reader to figure out who the killers are. There are no clues we can follow, no hints, but there are no real red herrings either because, in the end, the murders and police work are not what the book is about. It is about the life of Kurt Wallander and everything else, including the mystery, is just a part of his life.

I like Wallander (probably because I watched the BBC version on Masterpiece Mystery and loved Kenneth Branagh as Wallander), so I'll probably read another couple of stories when I am bored. But if you don't like dreary, self-pitying, middle-aged, divorced men, the Wallander books probably aren't for you.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Shannon Carrasco "But if you don't like dreary, self-pitying, middle-aged, divorced men, the Wallander books probably aren't for you."

This makes me lol :) Thing is, I like Wallander as well, but probably only because I was picturing Kenneth Branagh as the character. I gotta watch the show!

Brad You will like it, Shannon.

Brad Hahaha! Fair enough. But I'm guessing middle-aged, divorced women aren't always that fond of them.

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