on April 23, 2016
So enjoy the writing of Henning Manuell, as he explores the human condition and the frailties of Kurt Wollenden, a Swedish policeman who is struggling with his personal as well as his professional life.
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.
on September 29, 2003
What a relief it is to read a modern thriller/police procedural whose characters seem real. Mankell's protagonist, Swedish police officer Kurt Wallander, is not a super-hero who outwits and outfights legions of bad guys. Nor is he as phenomenally lucky as the heros in many American thrillers. Wallander, a dedicated cop, has a believable internal life. His real-world personal problems include loneliness, distance from his adult daughter, and a threat to his position from an ambitious younger officer. His horrendously long hours make him feel exhausted; he gets frustrated with baffling evidence and failed plans. Yet he persists in trying to understand the connections between the deaths he is investigating. Different pieces of the puzzle appear at well-paced intervals during the story. There are surprises that don't fit theories. The conspiracy that emerges turns out to reach far beyond local events. Though the chief villain gets nailed at the end of the book, Mankell does not wrap things up in a neat package. The threat is still out there.
Subsidiary themes of the book include the vulnerability of our technological society, and resentment of the growing concentration of wealth. There are a few problems. Many of the Swedish names sound alike, making it difficult to separate some policemen and policewomen from others. Mankell's writing, translated from Swedish, sometimes produces short, choppy sentences. There is a peculiar fixation on checking the time. Nonetheless, this book rises far above most mysteries.
on August 25, 2003
This was my first Wallender mystery and I am totally hooked. I absolutely couldn't put it down. The story flies along and the plot turns are so very interesting! Mankell really knows how to tell a mystery story; some details are important, others aren't, so that the reader is truly guessing the whole time. New twists and events pop up so quickly that (as I already said) it's hard to stop reading!
The protagonist is a complex, intriguing, drinks a lot of coffee, mixes big-deal police incidents with getting his car fixed, etc. so that he seems very real.
My only complaint, and maybe this is just Mankell's style, is that here we have a plot zipping along at a fast pace, and then you all of a sudden you're through the climax and the book's over. The End. Maybe I'm too accustomed to the Hollywood crescendo but the climax really caught me by surprise, left me saying "that's it?" Plot-wise it was pleasantly satisfying, wrapping up what needed to be, and was clever enough, lengthy denoument even, but it just could have used some extra buildup or suspense right at the end.
Other than that...this is the best book I've read in awhile. Interesting, suspenseful, great techno thriller plot, complex characters. If you're looking for a new author here's one to try.
on October 6, 2002
This book is very different from 'Sidetracked'. There, the first 100 pages were filled with Wallender's repeated introspections, so that the book only took off after that. I read this book partly while visiting S. Sweden. However, I must state that the occurence so many murders so fast in Ystad in the book contrasted sharply with the nice reality of street life and cafe atmosphere in Ystad in July! The old town (gammlebyen) is surprisingly large, not so many like it are left in Scandinavia.
This book is highly recommendable, really takes off from the start. It makes references in the beginning to two of Wallender's earlier cases, Sidetracked and Hunde von Riga, and with all of Wallender's complaints about health and his colleagues foreshadows his coming retirement. I read in a German article this summer that Mankell lives in Africa and soon will replace the Wallender series with one where Wallender's daughter 'stars'.
This review is based on the Norwegian translation 'Brannvegg'.
on May 11, 2003
There are two primary plot lines in Firewall--a potential crime and the personal life of Inspect Wallandar, the police lead on the case. Mankell's smooth writing allows the reader to keep pace with a detailed plot. The introduction of new characters into the story is always well timed, in that they continue to hold the reader's interest and are congruent with the the story line.
Inspecter Wallandar is a very human police inspector, struggling with loneliness, job anxiety, and retirement at some point in the future. His reflections on his personal relationships and career transcend both age and nationality.
The translation of this book from Swedish is appears to be seamless and is easy to understand with apparently no loss of local color. This is the first Inspector Wallandar book I have read, and is good enough to entice me to seek out the others.
on October 16, 2002
I read the German translation ("Die Brandmauer") as soon as it became available. In fact, since reading my first Wallander, I've never been able to wait for the English translations. (Why do they take so long?) Whatever you like about Kurt Wallander novels -- the shocking, unexpected turns of plot, the continuing development of Wallander as a person, his relationship with his daughter, his colleagues -- you'll find it in this novel. The character of one of those colleagues -- Martinson, whom we first met as a young, new policeman in Faceless Killers -- exhibits a surprising new side.
At last, it's about to appear in English, so that I can share it with friends who don't read German (or Swedish or Norwegian or ...)
on October 9, 2009
Firewall - rather a strange title I thought. Once more Henning Mankell kept me glued to the book - started it at 9 a.m., and finished it at 1 a.m. next morning. Luckily I had a free day. The story is fascinating, leading youfrom pillar to post and back. Seemingly unrelated incidents keep you guessing. Starting in Sweden, it travels to Luanda, capital of Angola. The various branches of the story do eventually come together of course. I hated to put the book down, it is so riveting, and hated tocome to the end. Another 'must' read.
on November 21, 2003
Slow paced, confused plot even at the end, but most of all too depressing. Inspector Wallander sobs and whimpers from beginning to end on his divorce (caused by his egocentric focus on career), friends who abandon him (one can understand why), colleagues who hide from him... And as an excuse he moans "o tempora, o mores", pretending that modern society is at the root of his own squallor.
on January 5, 2003
The Italian traslation is always late and so I'd like to thank the english translator.
As to this new case, I think that perhaps it's the best. The level of suspense is very high and Wallander is wonderfully human. Like a real person that you have known for years.
Now I'm waiting for the 9th case, Pyramid.
Let's hope to read it this very year, 2003.