©2003 Laurie Thompson; (P)2000 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Although the Nazis called themselves National Socialists they were the opposite: fascists.
On the political spectrum fascists would be considered "extreme right", socialists "far left", and communists "extreme left". Mankell knows his history.
I love Mankell's novels precisely because of the dark Scandinavian mood. Kurt Wallander, the main character in many of his books, is a haunting portrait of a detective in his 50s who is questioning his life, his work, and the personal price it has extracted. He feels a duty to society to take on the difficult, exhausting, and grisly task of solving murders. He worries about what may be the breakdown of modern society and he is not sure his work has any measurable effect. His country is coping with major societal shifts resulting from the dissolution of the USSR, immigration, and globalization. His loneliness and depression are palpable yet he yearns for hope, meaning, and connection. I come away with a respect for the emotional honesty of a character that thinks and feels rather some two dimensional "shoot 'em up" type hero. I wonder about the people who tackle these issues in real life and what we ask of them.
Stefan Lindman, the protagonist in this book, is facing somewhat similar personal issues because of the possibility of death but he can bounce back more easily because of his relative youth. He has to grapple with evil, past and present, memory, retribution, and forgiveness. I find Wallander a more compelling character but I will take Mankell's writing however I can get it. Paradoxically, when I finish these books I feel rejuvenated and grateful for my life.
If you enjoy these books you may also like The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson.
63 y/o psychologist with two sons, living in SF Bay Area. I absolutely love all the feedback I've been getting for my reviews. It's very gratifying. Thanks to all of you.
This book is about two murders. They happen in Sweden. The people have Swedish names. The places have Swedish names. One dog is gutted. Another disappears. One detective thinks. Another detective thinks. Mr. Gardner reads. People drive places. It is cold. An old man who dances with a doll dies. Another who plays the violin dies. Decades go by, while you are listening. You wait for something interesting to happen. It does not. There is an attempt to tell a story about the Nazi years. Some people are nice. Some are not. You have no desire to visit Sweden, if this is what it's like. They do make good cars. Mr. Mankell has written good books. This is not one of them. You might fall asleep while listening to this. You could sleep eight hours, wake up, and not have missed anything.
This is a very good read of a good, but not great book. The story is gripping although the main character gets a bit whiny. While his self-pity and self-adsorption were key components of the character, Mankell could have been a little more subtle. After a few hours you just want to slap him. The reader does a good job of bringing the story to life and the story (whininess notwithstanding) keeps your interest. The book defintiely plays to Scandanavian paranoias that seem a bit less shocking in translation. I liked the book without loving it. The author has done better.
The person who translated this Mankell novel did him no favors. Poor word choices and an obsessive dedication to word-for-word translation rendered the dialogue wooden and the narrative ponderous. Certainly a good translator will capture the culture differences reflected in the original language and recreate the Swedish forthrightness, introspection, and coolness, but this translation left the reader nothing to work with and flattened an otherwise entertaining read.
Henning Mankell is just one of the best detective writers in the genre. This book is exceptional. The main character isn't quite as fascinating as Kurt Wallander, but he is fascinating for his own reasons. From the tension of a human trying to figure out his own life while solving crimes, to the horrific nature of the crimes and the incredible stories behind them, this is just worth the read.
Mankell's new hero is troubled, flawed, likable, and at times not very nice. The villain is sympathetic, and all the side characters have their own flaws and virtues. There are almost no points where it feels like the writer is padding the story just to make it longer. It's a well-told story with excellent characters and a disturbing premise.
The translation seems to have been more for the UK's version of English than the US's, but anyone who watched Harry Potter will follow it. There are some places a phrase sounds awkwardly translated. Not enough to distract, but enough to notice.
Overall, I love this writer and this book.
Love having someone read me a story. Fires in the hearth, rain on the roof, sunny days and surf. Good friends, good food and J S Bach.
Like others I have loved Mankell's other stories with Sean Barrett reading. Giving a different voice to narrate 'The Return of the Dancing Master' was like tasting a new wine expecting it to be a still wine and finding a delightful spritzig. Now Grover Gardner is not exactly bubbly. Yet it made me prick up my ears and listen more intently.
What I had found interesting is the continuing influence of history as a shadow in the present. Mankell uses this in his fiction both here and in the 'Wallander' novels. So this is a reminder, a 'Lest we Forget' of the long time line of the effects of war, the Nazi of the past (and Neo Nazi in the present) in particular. It is a murder mystery.
I found this an engrossing story, very well read that added to my respect for Henning Mankell as a writer.
The primary character in this volume is Stefan Lindman, a self absorbed policeman who acts as though the laws of the land do not apply to him. The story is complicated and entwined, as are most Mankell books. The characters are complicated and opaque, as are people in real life. The story here has depth, mystery and layers of understanding. It invokes the consequences of our personal histories and the histories of cultures. I should love this book, but I simply like it.
This book is better than the average detective novel out in the wild, but not as good as my favorite Mankell novels. Maybe it that is from my ill-suited affection for Kurt Wallander, the socially inept detective of many of Mankell's novels. Maybe it is because I felt actual dislike for Stefan Lindman who is careless with those who love him and irrational in his obsession with death caused by the tongue cancer detected early in the novel. Maybe it is because he gets to take months off work for this same tongue cancer when he is perfectly capable of going about his normal life (why, oh why did Mankell select such a ridiculous malady?).
The narration is good and appropriate to the book. I probably prefer Dick Hill's narration (for several other Mankell novels) but that could simply be from familiarity.
As always, Henning Mankell delivers a compelling story with flawed protagonists and twisted villains. The problem I had was with the narrator, Grover Gardner. While he has the kind of voice that you can hear and understand, he lacks sufficient skill in presenting different voices. There were conversations going on where I could not determine who was speaking because it all sounded the same. So while I would recommend Mr. Gardner for non fiction, I could not do so for anything where one has to follow conversations.
Herbert Molin, a recluse living in the small town in the forest in Sweden, is gruesomely murdered. The police are in the early days of investigation when his neighbor is also murdered. Mollon had been tortured before death, while Anderson is shot execution-style. But two murders in such a remote location have to be related. A visiting policeman, Stefan, on sick leave as he tries to come to grips with his diagnosis of tongue cancer, helps local police and forms a friendship with the investigator in charge, Joseppi.
Stefan, not officially on duty, follows questionable practices such as breaking into people's houses, to find clues, which he then passes on to Joseppi. The two men brainstorm and talk through the investigation as it gets closer and closer to an underground Nazi organization. The book indicts Nazism in both its historical and present incarnations, as links between its practice and the deaths surface. Introspective Stephan also deals with how Nazism has played a role in his family and upbringing.
After an initially very tense scene, this book develops slowly. The reserved manner in which the characters interact with one another creates a space between the reader and the characters. Even scenes which have to do with passion are told rather dispassionately. For this reason, the book didn't draw me back as strongly as some. However, the very intricate plot is interesting, and I wanted to know how it ended and what the crucial connections were. Mankell did a good job of holding the last pieces of the puzzle until the end.
I enjoy Scandinavian mystery and crime authors like Asa Larsson, Helene Tursten, Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum and Amaaldur Indridason just to name a few.
I have spent a lot of time with Henning Mankell and his characters and I think this is his best story. I have listened to this book a number of times and will again. If you enjoy Swedish stories, sit back and get ready for a complex piece of work..
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