Told from the perspectives of both cop and criminal, Mankell's third Kurt Wallander mystery revolves around the veteran Swedish inspector's search for a savage serial killer who scalps his victims after delivering a fatal hatchet blow. The novel opens as Wallander is called to a farmer's field, where he helplessly witnesses a teenage girl's self-immolation. The suicide unsettles the inspector, who can't understand why someone so young would kill herself. As the police try to identify the young woman, the serial killer's first victim, a former justice minister, is discovered on a beach in a wealthy neighborhood. Three more people are found murdered and scalped, and other signs of violence suggest that the perpetrator is becoming increasingly agitated. Following standard procedure, Wallander and his crew try to link the four victims, all male, a difficult task because their lives never seem to have intersected. Using American profiling methods as well as his own intuition, Wallander struggles to make headway in the case. What he doesn't consider, and what readers know, is that the murderer isn't a man but a boy, who hopes to revive his catatonic sister by the ritual presentation of the scalps. Mankell's meticulously detailed descriptions of the inspector's investigation--and his often lyrical portrayal of Wallander's struggle to rearrange his thought processes in order to catch the criminal--are masterful. The author's treatment of modern themes such as juvenile killers and broken families adds richness to what is essentially a straightforward police procedural. But above all, the novel stands out for its nuanced evocation of even the peripheral characters. Winner of Sweden's 1997 Best Crime Novel of the Year, this is another terrific offering from the talented Mankell. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999 Release date: 06/01/1999 Genre: Fiction
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