Allan MacDonell's Reviews > The Man from Beijing

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
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Jul 01, 2011

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Read in June, 2011

So I watched all three of those movies with the dragon-tattooed girl, even though only the first one held my full interest, and the viewings left me open to the notion that Scandinavian noir may be the new noir for me. If The Man From Beijing is good enough for the book kiosks at JFK, I further reasoned, it should be good enough for me, and I suppose the book is partially a dark treat of low horizon pessimism and chill. But the narrative slips from the precise and complete butchery of a tiny icebound hamlet in contemporary Sweden's far rural north to the construction of a railroad headed east in the old American West, and from there to modern day China en route to long discourses on the successes and failures of Maoist doctrine and practice. There is also a stop off in two emerging African nations and a fatal confrontation on the streets of London. Oh, wait. I forgot about the portions of this epic aspiration that take place in pre-industrial China, before making the journey over to that eastbound railroad. I liked the dumpy, dreary Swedish lady judge and her low-achieving, sexually flat train-conductor husband, along with their coolly detached children, who never actually appear, but too many of these globe-plodding story lines stray beyond the scope of what I bargained for.

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