A Review of The Troubled Man: A Kurt Wallender Novel, by Henning Mankell
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
All good things come to an end, and for Kurt Wallender, this is it. There will be no more novels from Henning Mankell about the complex and troubled rural Swedish detective with an uncanny ability to stumble into spectacular murder cases.
The Troubled Man is aptly titled. The book tells the story of Wallender’s last big case, taking him deeply into Sweden’s politically complex past and arousing self-doubt that is more profound than ever. As Wallender pursues the baffling disappearance of a retired Swedish naval official, he learns ugly truths about his country’s recent history. The Troubled Man, though partly an exploration of one man’s complex character, is also a fascinating tale of espionage told through the eyes of a brilliant detective as he slowly sorts through the contradictory facts he encounters.
Mankell is an even more interesting character than his signature protagonist. Now 63, he has a long history as a leftist activist, having participated in the explosive events of 1968 and, as a young man in the 1970s, lived and collaborated for a time with a Norwegian Maoist. He has lived in Africa for many years and was actively engaged in promoting Mozambique’s independence from Portugal. Recently, he was on board the ship that attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Mankell is a prolific writer, with more plays to his name than novels. He is married to Eva Bergman, daughter of the legendary director, Ingmar Bergman, and is involved in a creating a mini-series for Swedish television about his father-in-law. Mankell spends at least half of every year in Maputo, Mozambique, where he has been the director of a theater for many years.
The 10 Wallender novels (11, counting one featuring his daughter, Linda, also a police detective) are intensely political. The underlying theme in them all is what Mankell views as the disintegration of Swedish society in recent decades, with crime, and especially violent crime, rising sharply, contentious debates over immigration, and ever nastier political discourse. “What went wrong?” Mankell asks. Though Wallender, the detective, is apolitical, Mankell himself has been actively engaged in public affairs for more than four decades.