Henning Mankell: The Troubled Man (3 stars)

Henning Mankell: The Troubled Man

Long-awaited addition to the Kurt Wallander series is a readable but bleak affair

(Harvill Secker)

For fans of Henning Mankell’s Inspector Wallander series, news that the first new novel in almost a decade was on the horizon generated excitement worthy of a Beatles reformation. But such manic anticipation will have been tempered by the fact that The Troubled Man is the tenth and final Wallander mystery and, disappointingly, it’s not quite the satisfying closer we all hoped for.

Mankell has populated all the Kurt Wallander mysteries with three basic elements: a central crime and its subsequent unravelling; comments on the shifting social and political landscape of modern-day Sweden; and, perhaps most enjoyable of all, the day to day minutiae of Wallander’s life, from lunch to laundry. The Troubled Man is no exception, except now our hero is pushing 60, and the prospect of his own demise is blinding him like headlights on the Ystad to Malmö road.

Wallander’s ability to painstakingly piece together an investigation remains undiminished, but aside from that, his occasionally warm, often volatile relationship with daughter Linda is the only bone Mankell is willing to throw him. You don’t go looking for love and happiness in a Wallander novel, but even by Mankell’s standards, this is a bleak swansong riddled by illness and death.

If you can forgive the final page, which dismisses the loyal reader like an annoying pupil in detention, then The Troubled Man still ticks a lot of valuable boxes. Caught up in a crime outwith his jurisdiction, Wallander makes endless trips to Stockholm and back, tracking the disappearance of Linda’s new in-laws. Cold War politics, espionage and deceit abound but, as ever, Wallander grabs hold of the case like a Rottweiler and refuses to let go until it’s solved. His discoveries lead to sadness and betrayal, which in a way, is exactly how Henning Mankell leaves us.

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