The novel is preceded by a prologue that takes place in 1945, more than 50 years before the actual action. The English executioner Davenport is flown to Germany, where he has to execute twelve German prisoners of war within two hours. Already here it becomes clear that the origins of the crime, which happened in Sweden in 1999, reach far into the past.
But first, let’s get to know Mankell’s new protagonist, Stefan Lindman. Lindman is 37 years old and is a police officer in Borås. Lindman does have a steady girlfriend, Elena, a Polish woman, but the two live in separate apartments. His only hobby is the local soccer club Elfsborg. For Lindman, the book begins with a stroke of fate. In the hospital, he is diagnosed with tongue cancer. Not yet able to think clearly, the next shock awaits her while she is leafing through a newspaper in the hospital cafeteria: Herbert Molin has been murdered.
with a whip the flesh was pulled from the body
Herbert Molin was a former colleague, long since retired and now almost 80 years old. After leaving the police force, he moved to Harjedalen in the far north and lived there alone in a remote house in the forest. And now he had been bestially murdered. His flesh was pulled from his body with a whip until he was dead. Someone must have had a particularly strong hatred for Molin.
Lindman’s treatment is scheduled to begin in three weeks. Until then he is on sick leave. Fleeing from the disease and his own fear, he initially wants to take a vacation in Mallorca, but then spontaneously decides to go to Norrland to see how and where Molin lived and to inquire about the state of the investigation.
He immediately gets along very well with the officer in charge, who has the typical Swedish name Giuseppe Larsen, so that he immediately gets an insight into the ongoing investigation, although he is only present as a private person. In the house, the perpetrator left prints with Molin’s bloody feet in the pattern of tango steps. Molin was an enthusiastic dancer, but this clue remains a mystery.
a convinced Nazi
Searching for the motive in Molin’s past, Lindman finds out by chance that his former colleague was a member of the Waffen-SS during the Second World War and was a convinced Nazi to the very end. In the course of the investigation it turns out that Nazism was widespread in Sweden during the war and is still more organized than the population is aware of. On a member list Lindman discovers thereby even the name of his deceased father.
One could be curious about Mankell’s new detective novel, the first of the post-Wallander period. It has become in any case again a distinctive Mankell. But one wonders why the protagonist here is no longer Kurt Wallander, but Stefan Lindman, a convinced Nazi. In terms of character, Lindman could almost be Wallander’s twin brother. A loner with relationship problems, fears for the future, full of self-doubt, psychologically unstable and with quite idiosyncratic methods. I had expected a radical cut because of the abrupt end of the series, perhaps something different in style. But this case could have been tailored just as well to Wallander by small changes.
On the one hand, this may be a little disappointment, because the author has brought absolutely nothing new, but on the other hand, you have the familiar Mankell quality and Wallander fans will devour this book with enthusiasm. The new novel is no longer set in Skåne, but Mankell has moved the action to Harjedalen in Norrland, where he himself was born. But he has nevertheless created a small reference to the Wallander crime novels: The character of the portrait painter Wetterstedt is the brother of the Minister of Justice Wetterstedt, who was the protagonist in "The False Track" had been one of the murder victims.
Wallander’s writing style is also again unmistakable. With his blunt and very simple language he brings things to the point. Through his numerous repetitions, Mankell ensures that the material is easy to grasp even for inexperienced crime fiction readers, without it becoming intrusive or boring. The only disturbing thing for me while reading was that the author constantly "pisses" his male characters leaves. It may be appropriate to describe that Lindman has to stop to urinate on his long car ride, but it is really not relevant for the plot to constantly learn that one or the other is "pissing" in any given situation must. Also, the constant use of the slightly vulgar word "piss" seems out of place seems inappropriate compared to the other language of the author, at least once there is also "pee".
Surprising: the strength of German influence during World War II in Sweden
With National Socialism, Mankell has this time approached his basic theme, the increasing crime in Sweden, from a different angle. It is surprising to learn how strong the German influence must have been in Sweden, which appeared so neutral to the outside world, during the Second World War. The dangers to the country’s society from organized infiltration with radical right-wing influences are presented by the author in a tried and tested manner. The threat to Lindman’s life from the insidious disease can certainly be seen as a metaphor for the central issue.
The change of narrative perspectives is also a typical characteristic of the author. The first chapter is written from the point of view of the murder victim; later, the reader largely follows the protagonist, but there are always glimpses of the murderer, who is by no means portrayed as the beast that could be expected from the way the crime was carried out, but actually as a person with a strong sense of justice. Also, the victim Herbert Molin is not the evil Nazi from the ground up, but one also learns something about the motives that made him that way.
Even though the character of Molin’s murderer is revealed to the reader after just 150 pages, the novel remains exciting and gripping from start to finish. Because there is still enough for the reader, who is always a few steps ahead of the police, to solve.
I was actually only waiting for a showdown with a big chase where the perpetrator escapes because the policeman has to take a piss.