One cold January day the police are called to a sleepy little hamlet in the north of Sweden where they discover a savagely murdered man lying in the snow. As they begin their investigation they notice that the village seems eerily quiet and deserted. Going from house to house, looking for witnesses, they uncover a crime unprecedented in Swedish history. When Judge Birgitta Roslin reads about the massacre, she realises that she has a family connection to one of the couples involved and decides to investigate. A nineteenth-century diary and a red silk ribbon found in the forest nearby are the only clues. What Birgitta eventually uncovers leads her into an international web of corruption and a story of vengeance that stretches back over a hundred years, linking China and the USA of the 1860s with modern-day Beijing, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and coming to a shocking climax in London’s Chinatown. The Man from Beijing is both a gripping and perceptive political thriller and a compelling detective story.
It shows Henning Mankell at the height of his powers, handling a broad historical canvas and pressing international issues with his exceptional gifts for insight and chilling suspense.
©2011 Henning Mankell (P)2011 Random House Audiobooks
Live in Sydney, Australia. South African heritage. Love audio books. Constant company on my non-stop business travels.
The Man from Beijing opens with a compelling and gruesome scenario. This becomes the axis around which the narrative will rotate taking the listener all over the planet. Whilst the political, historical and social issues explored are ambitious and intriguing it’s the seemingly bewildering naiveté of the central character, Judge Bergitta Roslin, that distracts and dilutes an ambitious detective/political drama.
Weaving through the narrative an analysis of contemporary Chinese political and economic ambitions coupled with insights into what is still an inscrutable culture is deeply interesting.
Narrators Anna Bentnick’s performance is competent (her pronunciation of Swedish and English words and names is impressive) however she lacks authentic emotion leaving some dramatic and violent scenes oddly antiseptic.
I usually love Henning Mankell, but this might be one book too many.
In fairness, I got the idea from the blurb and his previous work that this would be a detective story. If that's why you're thinking of buying it, then think twice, because only a very short part of the book deals with the murders.
Hours and hours of it are dedicated to Chinese peasants starving in China and being forced to work on the US railways in the 19th century, then even more hours are spent on Chinese politics - past and present.
The view presented of Zimbabwe is so biased that it makes me wonder whether the portrayal of China (about which I know very little) is accurate either. Mugabe is presented as a benign, misunderstood civilised schoolmaster (!) and, irritatingly, read with a Jamaican accent. [Note to narrator - not all black people speak the same way. Just saying...]
I haven't finished it yet, and live in hopes that things will pick up, but just be aware that it's slow-going, and not a police-procedural or detective story.
"Sweden called: they'd like their story back."
From the start, this felt like it was going to be a great story: Mysterious murders, remote locations, and no apparent reason for it all. Then, somewhere around Chapter 10, one of the main characters catches a plane to China, and, it seems, the author forgets he has a story to tell. Hour after hour I waited for the story to pick up back in Sweden, but instead it's like someone made a mistake in the binding and stapled in a history of 19th century China and a political sketch of Zimbabwe that's so biased it becomes funny. I'm sure there was a thread to pick up relating to the murders back in Sweden, but the story unravels and fades into the distance long before we get to it. In the end, I didn't care.
A very disappointing book. I, like the author I feel, lost interest somewhere in China.
"Disappointment, confident he has written better"
I came to Henning Mankell from Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo hoping to find a similar quality of plot and writing. Well if he is this is not the book that demonstrates it.
I just wasn't convinced by the plot and felt disappointed. I listened until the end simply to get to the end. It was something of a political diatribe, dull, dull....why did I bother? This did not live up to the 4 star billing.
"Something else from the master"
Having really enjoyed his swedish detective books I wanted to listen to something else. I was not disappointed I really enjoyed this book.
Having listened to most of the Wallander series, I was expecting a book equally gripping. Ummm . . . I should have read the other reviews first! Starts really well, enticing the listener in with the promise of excitement and intrigue, but goes downhill all the way, to the point that I was only listening in the hope that it would get back on track. It didn't. Long, long, long chapters relating to Chinese politics without a whisper of excitement. Not even a satisfactory ending to wind it all up with. I was actually relieved when the book finished. Very disappointing.
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