Monday, January 24, 2011

11.02 The White Lioness by Henning Mankell

The White Lioness (1993) by Henning Mankell
Trade, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

I have been reading Henning Mankell's books about the detective Wallander for a number of years. Wallander is something of the clich├ęd doughy, sleepless, overworked police investigator. The type is used in various iterations across the world of crime fiction. What makes Mankell's books interesting though is his taught writing and dry Scandinavian perspective. Wallander is a homicide detective in a smaller Swedish town, Ystad, and continually comes up against the problems that plague larger cities. Often a small crime will reveal something like international drug gangs or human smuggling. I also like Wallander because he has the bulldog in him - when he gets going on a hunch there is no stopping him.

There are generally smaller subplots in the novels about his love life or relationships with his daughter and father. As you move through the series one tracks along with the detectives personal ups and downs. I tired somewhat of the series because these personal storylines became much more a part of the books. I returned to this novel, the third, because I had missed it first time around and his earlier books are the best. The books begins simply with the disappearance of a straightlaced Methodist housewife. Her life is so normal and unremarkable that Wallander can't understand why she would have left...unless she was murdered! I liked this novel but somewhere around the halfway point the story switches to South Africa and the perspective of political leaders from the end of apartheid era. It wasn't so much the switch that was jarring (Mankell has a long history living and working in Africa) but hearing the fictional inner thoughts and dialogue from real life people like FW DeKlerk. In the end, although it wasn't his best effort, Mankell managed to pull it all together albeit overloaded with a left wing anti-apartheid theme.

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