Veronica's Reviews > Before the Frost

Before the Frost by Henning Mankell
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's review
Jun 27, 2009

did not like it
bookshelves: postal-book-group, fiction
Read in July, 2009

I'll be honest: this is the book group book I got closest to not finishing – I put it aside altogether for about a week, and finally picked it up and plodded through the rest of it over the last few days, heaving a sigh of relief when I'd finished.

Admittedly, it's not my cup of tea – I don't read detective/police fiction at all, so I'm not qualified to say if it's a good example of the genre. Anyway, I am obviously out of step with the majority, since both Goodreads and Amazon have dozens of rave reviews, to the extent that I wondered if I'd read the same book! Maybe it would have been better if I'd read some other Wallander books, since Kurt is obviously an important and well-loved character. I might have followed the various odd clues/dead ends better if I'd been more accustomed to this type of book too!

But I found this book dull and depressing, the plot slow-moving and uninteresting, the characters and many of the events unconvincing (Linda throwing an ashtray at her father in the police station for example). Worst was the clunky, stilted prose, which read to me as if the publisher had committed the cardinal sin of getting it translated by someone whose mother tongue is not English (the translator has a Swedish name, so...).

Good points: he certainly excels at creating an oppressive atmosphere, and I felt it was clever to base the story on a global issue (religious fundamentalism), but not address it in the most obvious way (in that the fanatics here are Christians). The tension did pick up a bit in the last 50 pages or so, although much of it is created by Linda's implausibly clumsy and unprofessional behaviour! The sole real suspense (the threat to Zeba's life) was resolved rather too quickly. I absolutely wouldn't pick up another book by Mankell but I can appreciate that this kind of book and Mankell's particular style appeal to many others.
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