In his first appearance in English, Swedish bestselling author Mankell combines thriller-quality entertainment with a depiction of anti-foreigner prejudice in Sweden, painted here as a very chilly place indeed. Since his wife walked out on him, Kurt Wallender, a middle-aged cop in the small town of Lenarp, has drowned his sorrows in opera and far too much liquor. Such consolations can't help him absorb the scene at the Lovgren farm, where elderly Johannes Lovgren has been brutally beaten and stabbed to death and where his wife, Maria, is found barely alive with a noose around her neck. Rydberg, a police force old-timer, says the noose's unusual knot and the word foreigner, which Maria uttered before she died, are important. Wallender puts those clues on the back burner when he learns that Johannes, ostensibly a simple farmer, had a secret life involving wealth and connections unknown to his wife. However, a leak to the press complicates the investigation by arousing anti-immigrant feelings, some of which are expressed in anonymous threats. Mankell is clearly a skilled writer, and his portrait of Wallender (who periodically slides beneath respectability) is effective. But he provides essential information only at the last minute, which makes the solution feel more like an appendix than a conclusion. Also, American readers may find odd Mankell's bundling of his upright anti-racism message with broad notions of what constitutes acceptable social control. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997 Release date: 03/01/1997 Genre: Fiction
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