"Faceless Killers", Henning Mankell
In the last two weeks I’ve read two mystery novels, which isn’t something I do terribly often. I’m not a particular fan of the genre and got into it more as a locational thing – I started reading Ian Rankin novels because of the Edinburgh setting. “The Naming of the Dead” isn’t Rankin at his best (my favs are “The Falls” and “A Question of Blood”) but it is enjoyable. I like the way Rankin uses current events to direct his novels – this one about the G8 protests. I did love the character development of Siobhan and the relationship between the two of them. I’ll be sad when the series ends. How can John Rebus possible retire?
The other book I read, recommended perhaps by Sofiya or by a Swedish friend ages ago, is “Faceless Killers” by Henning Mankell. While not as immediately engrossing as a Rankin read, it reminded me a lot of Rankin’s Rebus series. It also unfolds in the midst of a topical discussion; this one about immigration and refugees. I thought it dealt with the issue sensitively and in a very European way. My North American mind has always struggled, even after almost 4 years in Scotland, with the European immigration issues. But perhaps this novel has helped me understand better – Wallander is trying to think of all the possible foreign targets that might exist in his area and it says “How many pizzerias were there in the Ystad area?” I can barely comprehend pizzerias as foreign food or the culture that thinks they are. A subtle but important reminder that understanding the current events of other cultures is hindered by our lack of ability to understand the mindset of the people involved.
Both of the authors evoke strongly a sense of place. Rankin’s Edinburgh was far removed from my own and yet I always recognized it when reading. Mankell certain evokes the flat, chill of a Swedish winter that I envision when thinking about Sweden (the closest I’ve ever gotten myself is Denmark.) The names of characters and places and even the pared down language (which I suspect comes from reading it in translation) lend a sense of place.
In “Faceless Killers”, Kurt Wallander wonders “why almost every policeman was divorced. Why their wives left them. Sometimes, when he read a crime novel, he discovered with a sigh that things were just as bad in fiction. Policemen were divorced. That’s all there was to it.” Rebus and Wallander are such similar detectives. The broken home lives, the distant daughters, the obsession with music, the poor diet and problems with weight. A notable difference is Rebus’s drinking. Wallander seldom drinks.
I’m not a Wallander fan yet (granted, I am only one book in). The spareness of the language doesn’t entirely appeal to me. The female characters are particularly poorly drawn. The love affair (of sorts) is particularly hard to understand as written. The only character other than Wallander who I found well drawn (Rydberg) doesn’t seem likely to make it into the second book. I have another book already, found it secondhand, and while I am curious to see where the author goes with the character, I hope things get a little more engaging soon.