The acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander mysteries, writing at the height of his powers, now gives us an electrifying stand-alone global thriller.
January 2006. In the Swedish hamlet of Hesjvallen, nineteen people have been massacred. The only clue is a red ribbon found at the scene.
Judge Birgitta Roslin has particular reason to be shocked: Her grandparents, the Andrns, are among the victims, and Birgitta soon learns that an Andrn family in Nevada has also been murdered. She then discovers the 19th-century diary of an Andrn ancestora gang master on the American transcontinental railwaythat describes brutal treatment of Chinese slave workers. The police insist that only a lunatic could have committed the Hesjvallen murders, but Birgitta is determined to uncover what she now suspects is a more complicated truth.
The investigation leads to the highest echelons of power in present-day Beijing, and to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. But the narrative also takes us back 150 years into the depths of the slave trade between China and the United Statesa history that will ensnare Birgitta as she draws ever closer to solving the Hesjvallen murders.
©2010 Henning Mankell; (P)2010 Random House
I have listened to all of Henning Mankell's novels and enjoyed every one of them. Kurt Wallander is one of my favorite sleuths. With this novel from 2006, however, he has outdone himself. Departing from his normal formula, The Man From Beijing takes us back to the 1860's in Nevada and to today's (2006) China. What a wonderful listen this book was. The characters, as always, are fully developed and seem real to me. The journey Mankell takes us on is interesting and informative and very suspenseful. I loved it.
What I thought was going to be a fairly straightforward mystery ended up being an interesting exploration of justice, family dynamics, revenge, and the past (and future) of socialism in China. I loved the complex stories (past and present) that were woven together. My only problem is that I felt that Mankell started to lose the plot (literally) as the book approached the end. There is something that seems to me to be a continuity issue, but more to the point, one of the main characters did a couple of things that seemed really improbable to me.
One of the best books I'd read recently, until the ending. But I could be in the minority.
I agree with another reviewer, it started so well and I was engrossed but then it just lost its umph and turned to mush. The African section of the book made no sense and weakened the story.
Mankell is known for unhurried, almost real-time, procedurals. It's easy to see his detectives working on a case, drinking stale coffee in a bleak office somewhere in a small, bitterly cold city in Sweden. Everyone's always grabbing their jacket, but that's what would happen, isn't it? His juxtaposition of the bleak Nordic life and the horror of a violent crime is stark in a fantastic way. In some of his books, ONE STEP BEHIND and SIDETRACKED this style was absolutely brilliant. In other books I felt these same devices were overdone. I still can't say I disliked anything of his since I appreciate his writing. In THE MAN FROM BEIJING I think he has taken his writing to another level. I'm sure some purists will lament in the more upbeat tempo, but don't worry, he still takes his time. There is a lot of Chinese history, which I thought was very interesting and interwoven into the story well. His main protagonists are women, a detective, a judge-cum-sleuth, and a person of some indeterminate, but high rank in China. Mankell has always had strong women characters, and I'm glad to see him base a novel from a female perspective. As usual he has a lot to say about the world's state of affairs, with an emphasis on society and it's woes. (He doesn't take it to an Ayn Rand level, which I appreciate because there can only be one of her!) Here he takes a micro and a macro view. The underlying story is great, a bloody mass murder in a tiny Swedish hamlet, just so all you purists are happy! Of course I can find flaws, for example, the evil psychopath isn't empathetic enough Also, the plot gets a little wild at times, but I'm fine with these minor shortcomings since I'm finding the novel as a whole so entertaining. P.S., I'm only 3/4 way through, so I can't comment on the end!
Now I'm Swedish, which could influence my opinion but I don't think it does. It's a great listen with mainly great characters and a great story, told in a great way.
Although, don't believe that Swedish names and Swedish accents sound like they do in this recording.
It was too much world and too much time to travel to and from. I was waiting for some good detective work to come in to play, but it didn't happen. Sorry, a reader for sure, but don't look for consistancy here.
Despite the detailed history of the families involved in this story, there were still big chunks missing that made it difficult to follow the story or care about the people. It could all be pieced together in the end, but characters frequently did things that made NO sense at all. The deep understanding of the people involved and the way the community shapes their lives comes out in the other books, and I just got none of that in this one.
I love Mankell's earlier books, but this is missing much of the charm.
This was a great listen - the narrator was good and the story riveting! Quiet and menacing, great Swedish detail and some interesting history. My favorite book by this author!
I purchased this audio thinking I would enjoy another Swedish author's work but...this book is boring, disconnected and barely has a thread of story throughout. I thought the narrator annoying at times. The whole Chinese history lesson seemed tedious. I don't know if I disliked the book because of the narrator or disliked the narrator because of the book's plot!
It's as if the author had a great idea for a story beginning, then couldn't figure out how to continue. The African conspiracy is absurd, the police and prosecutor dismissing the evidence the judge brings to their attention defies credulity, the ancient Chinese sayings are weak, and the nostalgia for Chairman Mao gets real old. Was my first Mankell read, and didn't encourage me to read any more.
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