Henning Mankell has become one of my favorite mystery authors and I've discovered him late in the game. I've been reading his Kurt Wallander series but The Return of the Dancing Master is a stand alone book. It is a many-tiered mystery that reads along at a steady pace and like Wallander's other books, has a cold and dark atmosphere that reflects the Swedish forest where a lot of the story takes place.
Herbert Molin lived the life of a hermit in his home hidden back in the forest in Sveg, which is farther north from Wallander's Ystad in Sweden. He had a neighbor with whom he spoke once in a blue moon, but mainly Molin stayed to himself. Before he retired from the police force in Boras, Sweden, Molin worked with a younger officer named Stefan Lindman. Lindman now discovered he has mouth cancer and while waiting weeks off duty to begin his treatments and to ease his terrible fear and anxiety, discovers that Molin has been brutally murdered. He goes to Sveg out of curiosity for why someone would kill Herbert Molin. No one knows why or even a hint at the identity of the killer.
Detective Inspector Guiseppe Larsson is in charge of the case and allows Lindman to tag along with him on the investigation. Giuseppe Larsson takes a lot of teasing from co-workers and others over his first name since it is hardly a Swedish name. He is so likeable that besides the dreary Lindman, he became my favorite character. The characters are very well developed and have distinct personalities that I found unforgettable. As I read, the title finally made sense.
Mankell's stand alone books seem to be as good as the series, and I look forward to reading the next in the Kurt Wallander series of mysteries. One thing that I appreciate very much is a map of the areas covered in the stories. I go back to this map in the front of the book to locate where characters are and to track their movements throughout the books. It makes the story more real.