I picked up "The Fifth Woman" by Henning Mankell because a reviewer favorably compared it to the classic "The Laughing Policeman" by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (Swedish wife/husband writing team). It doesn't disappoint. This is a book that is worth the price of a hardcover -- meaty, substantive, intricately/well plotted, with great characters.
The three things I noticed that bind all three authors in their works are: 1) the Swedish people's dislike and distrust of the police, 2) the chill and loneliness that seems to pervade human relationships, and 3) police inspectors who are brilliant, meticulous, conscientious, introspective and given to depression. These Swedish police procedurals are not a barrel of laughs, but rather they are thoughtful, well written, and original.
"The Fifth Woman" starts out with the murders in Africa of 4 nuns and a female visitor. The rest of the novel takes place with these murders' ramifications in Sweden where a serial killer is dispatching men, each very differently. The title refers not only to the 5th woman murdered in Africa, but also the 5th woman in Sweden who leads police inspector, Kurt Wallander, to the Swedish serial murderer.
American police procedurals tend to reveal more murder motives from the get-go. In this novel the motive is a core plot element and isn't revealed until later in the book. The reader also knows a few things about the killer early in the book that the police don't know and it is fascinating to watch the police reach the "same place in the book" as the reader. I was reading a well regarded American mystery writer and stopped the book to read "The Fifth Woman". When I returned to the American book after finishing Mankell's opus, it was sophmoric in comparison. This is a book for the serious mystery reader and well worth the effort.