For the forty-eighth book in the challenge, I read Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (translated by Steven T. Murray), the first book in the Kurt Wallander series.
The first thing you need to know about Wallander as a main character is that this dude is profoundly messed up by his job. Being a homicide detective is hard, and it eats at you, and this guy was sensitive to begin with. It’s one of the things that makes him an amazing, tenacious investigator, and it also fucks him up. A lot. It fucks up his marriage, his relationship with his daughter, and his ability to function. He is seriously emotionally wounded by each horror he has to dive into in order to figure out what happened and who is responsible, and as a result he is depressed most of the time. Wallander is deeply flawed, and that can make him hard to read for a lot of people. Me, I’m no stranger to depression, so I find this incredibly humanizing in a character. I may not actually understand what he’s going through, but I feel like I can imagine that I understand. It’s very compelling to me, though I could easily see that this is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Unlike other famous detectives, Wallander isn’t a genius. He’s just a guy who cares. He cares about everyone around him, to an extent that it loops around again and results in paralysis sometimes, and crabbiness, and personal neglect. But usually, he attacks the problem where he can see it needs attacking, and that dogged determination is most focused in his mind, which will simply not stop worrying at the problem. It drives him a little bit crazy, and it doesn’t always lead him in the right direction. You really get a feel for what police work must actually be like – a lot of waiting, shuffling through records, phone calls, interviews, paperwork, driving from place to place, endless bouts of thinking, talking and thinking and talking and thinking and then MORE WAITING.
Set in the 1990s, Sweden has been homogenous for quite a long time, but recently there has been an influx of immigrants and there is quite a lot of tension in the population. The trouble starts with the horrific torture and murder of an elderly couple in their home, out in the country near a backwater Swedish town. The older woman’s dying words are confusing, but possibly incriminate a non-Swedish culprit and set off a backlash when they are leaked to the media.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.