08 March 2015

Another solution to a "used up" character

Henning Mankell has written nearly a dozen crime novels featuring Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. Wallander fits the stereotype of crime novel detectives. But Mankell added some spark that made his character stand out.

In The Troubled Man, Mankell announces the end of Wallander's "public" life. "After that," Mankell writes, "there is nothing more. The story of Kurt Wallander is finished, once and for all."

But before that last line, before he is swallowed up by the shadow of forgetfulness, Wallander works to resolve one more mystery. This one involves the disappearance of his daughter's father-in-law-to-be. The older man had been a commander in the Swedish navy who had been involved in a bit of international intrigue involving a Russian submarine trapped in a Swedish fjord. Well, everyone assumed it was a Russian submarine and no one would talk about how or why it had escaped identification and capture.

Of course it's more complicated than that. The wife of the commander also disappeared. Long ago, she had been a refugee from East Germany. Or, at least everyone thought she was a refugee. Had she been a spy? Was there a larger meaning to the papers found on her body? And how does this affect Wallander's daughter and new granddaughter?

Oh, and was this somehow related to the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986?

Mankell adds so many distant and political aspects to the mix, that it's hard to imagine Wallander finding any firm answers. Probably only Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander could have figured it all out and played vigilante to punish the evil doers.

Mankell is a master at story telling and character creation. He's also a master at putting one character out to pasture. I don't think I've read all the Wallander novels, though I've seen quite a few television versions. I might have to go through plot summaries and find the ones I haven't read yet.

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