A review of The Pyramid and Four Other Kurt Wallender Mysteries, by Henning Mankell
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
First (at least in my consciousness) there were the ten Martin Beck police procedurals of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, published from 1965 to 1975. Now we flock to bookstores and movie theaters to enter the world of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist, who sprang from the mind of the late Stieg Larsson in the captivating form of the Millennium Trilogy.
In between there was Kurt Wallender, the moody small-town police inspector created by another masterful Swedish writer, Henning Mankell. Wallender made his first appearance (in English) in 1997 in the novel Faceless Killers. Wallender lived on through seven other novels, the last of which, Firewall, appeared in English translation in 2002. (An eighth, and reportedly last, Wallender novel is due in 2011 under the title The Troubled Man.) The series has won numerous awards and gained a large audience in the English-speaking world — deservedly so, in my opinion.
The Pyramid is something of an afterthought but no less worth reading than the Wallender novels. It’s a collection of five stories that span the time from Wallender’s rookie year on the police force until the period when, a mature and respected inspector, the crimes detailed in Faceless Killers took place. As he ages from his early 20s to his 50s, Wallender grows increasingly morose in the face of his dysfunctional family relationships and the senseless crimes he is called upon to solve. The Pyramid lays bare the roots of his problems. For any Kurt Wallender fan, it’s well worth reading.
Mankell is a serious writer. Like Sjowall, Wahloo, and Larsson, he is a man of the Left, and his writing explores the changes in Swedish society that have come about under the impact of drugs, immigration, and the newly competitive political environment which has brought conservatives as well as socialists into power.