Top positive review
As good as Sjoewall & Wahloo, and that's saying something!
on March 17, 2004
Maybe it's not a coincidence that the best police procedural series since the Martin Beck series also comes from a Swedish author. These deliberate, dark novels are not to everyone's taste, but if you liked Martin Beck, you'll probably like Kurt Wallander.
Firewall starts with two seemingly random events-- a reclusive computer expert drops dead in front of an ATM machine, and two teenage girls bludgeon and stab an elderly taxi driver to death. At first it seems that there couldn't possibly be any connection between the two, but the police investigation into the murder of the taxi driver is like kicking over an anthill. It seems as if a dozen incomprehensible things happen in rapid succession, including the killing of the prime suspect in the murder case. Inspector Kurt Wallander leads a dogged team of detectives in a search for the key to the baffling series of events, even though he has been accused of brutality toward a juvenile suspect and seems to be harboring a traitor among the cops on his team.
These cops work long hours, drink endless cups of coffee, and stop for numberless hamburgers and pizzas. But they also have home lives, do their laundry, take care of their sick kids, and struggle with car repairs and getting their errands done. Wallander, a divorced man in his mid-50's with diabetes and an advanced case of loneliness, balances action with thought, not all of it pleasant or useful. His resemblance is Martin Beck is strong, but this cop and his colleagues operate without the black humor that made Sjoewall and Wahloo's novels so fascinating. If society looked hopeless in the 1970's, it looks much worse in the late 1990's, and Wallander and his fellow cops see enough brutality and senseless violence to make anyone a pessimist.
The best thing is, however, that the story really works. After pages of relentless police work, including much attention to the efforts of a young hacker coopted to help the police break into a seemingly impregnable computer, the pieces start falling into place. The pace quickens, and the police keep getting closer, but
Wallander continues to make mistakes, not knowing how complicated the plot he is investigating really is. One realistic touch is that the book doesn't end with the climax, when the puzzle finally finds it solution. Instead, it meanders on for a bit to let the reader see the let-down at the end and the chance for Wallander to re-focus on his own life and priorities. The traitor on his team is still there. The mistrust of his superiors has not abated. But Wallander decides to continue to do his job because he hasn't any other option. It doesn't get much more real than that.