Steven Langdon's Reviews > The Demon of Dakar

The Demon of Dakar by Kjell Eriksson
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Jul 24, 2011

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With a police detective story from Sweden, it is inevitable to make comparisons with Henning Mankell's novels -- and The Demon of Dakar shares some of their strengths, but doesn't quite measure up overall.

This novel, like Mankell's, is less a conventional who-done-it and more a multifaceted slice of life in Sweden with a murder or murders knitting the narrative together. Thus the character of Detective Ann Lindell is probed in all its dimensions in the book, just as policeman Kurt Wallander's agonized life is analyzed throughout Mankell's novels. And the Swedish canvass on which the story plays out includes vivid characters from different social and economic dimensions within the country -- you cannot help but absorb the complex texture of a changing and complicated country. Like Mankell, Kjell Eriksson also sets his book in the wider world context that is influencing the open society that is Sweden.

These facets of the novel are all strengths, since they are handled well, and draw the reader deeply into the particularities of Uppsala, its restaurants, and its policing.

Mankell, however, always succeeds in building suspense and mystery into his books, despite his diverse focus. The Demon of Dakar is less skillful on that level. Its plot is rambling, even around the murders that are meant to knit the novel together. The role of the police is analyzed much less effectively than in Mankell. And key characters seem to submerge just as you are expecting to see their roles more fully revealed. The result is a very interesting sketch of one part of Sweden, but just a fair-to-middling mystery story.

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