THE TROUBLED MAN by Henning Mankell

Book Quote:

“Was his life really so restricted that major events taking place in the outside world never had much effect on him? What aspects of life had upset him? Pictures of children who had been badly treated, of course – but he had never been sufficiently moved to do anything about it. His excuse was always that he was too busy with work. I sometimes manage to help people by making sure that criminals are removed from the streets, he thought. But aside from that? He gazed out over the fields where nothing was yet growing, but he failed to find what he was looking for.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  (APR 09, 2011)

Henning Mankell’s Wallender mystery series has come to an end with The Troubled Man, the last book in this popular series that was also made into several movies for public television with Kenneth Branaugh playing the part of Wallander. Wallander has turned sixty in this book and he is obsessed with looking back on life and not seeing much for his future except growing old. He dwells on the past a lot. At one point he considers entering a restaurant that he used to patronize, that had a waitress there he liked, but he changes his mind. “He knew why he didn’t go in, of course. He was afraid of finding somebody else behind the counter, and being forced to accept that here too, in that café, time had moved on and that he would never be able to return to what now lay so far away and in the past.”

Wallander is a police detective who carries the world on his shoulders. He suffers from diabetes, drinks too much and is very lonely. He often dwells on the dark side of life. After his fiftieth birthday party, thrown by his colleagues, he starts to write a list of everyone he knew who has died. The list depresses him so much that he has to stop because there are so many suicides on the list.

Recently, Wallender went on a drinking binge and for some reason took his police revolver with him, leaving it at a restaurant. He was reported and put on administrative leave. During the time he is on leave, his daughter Linda has a baby. This is the one bright spot in his life. He agrees to go to Linda’s prospective father-in-law’s 75th birthday party. While there, Linda’s prospective father-in-law, Hakan Von Enke, tells him a very troubling story. Early in the 1980’s, while he was in the navy, he was an officer on a Swedish submarine. The Swedish submarine detected a Russian submarine in Swedish waters where it should not be. Remember, this was still the height of the cold war. The protocol was to scare the ship and if the ship did not retreat, the protocol was then to drop depth charges to force it to the surface. For some unknown reason, the commander was told to leave the ship alone. The ship was let go and Von Enke has become obsessed with what or who was behind this order. On top of that, he is acting fearful, as though there is someone after him. At one point in his conversation with Wallender, he hears a noise and his hand goes inside his jacket. Wallender suspects that Von Enke is carrying a gun. There is also someone suspicious lurking outside the window.

A short time after Wallender and Von Enke have this talk, Von Enke disappears. He leaves for his morning walk and never returns. On top of that, Louise, his wife, also disappears some time later. Wallender decides that he needs to look for them and find out what happened. After all, they are Linda’s prospective in-laws. He is still on administrative leave when he begins to look for them, fairly sure that their disappearance is connected in some way to the story about the submarine. Wallender gets to learn a lot more about the cold war than he ever knew before. Once Wallender is back at his job, though he is not officially part of the investigation to find the von Enkes, he continues to look for them. Suffice it to say, nothing is what it seems and the plot unfolds with many unexpected twists and turns leaving the reader spellbound. Most importantly, this book reflects real life and the consequences, both intended and unintended, of past actions.

Though this is a mystery, it is much less action driven than a typical American mystery. We get to know a lot about Wallender: his fears about aging, his loneliness, his philosophy of life and his generalized depressive attitude. The book has many twists and turns but is ultimately character driven. It is a fine book about a detective that has won the hearts of many readers. I know that I will miss him a lot. However, Mankell is very versatile and besides mysteries he has recently written a fine book called Daniel. Whatever genre Mankell chooses to continue with, I look forward to reading his books.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 65 readers
PUBLISHER: Knopf (March 29, 2011)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Henning Mankell
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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April 9, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Sleuths Series, Sweden, World Lit

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