cover image After the Fire

After the Fire

Henning Mankell, trans. from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. Vintage, $16.95 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-525-43508-2

On a rocky, remote private island in a Swedish archipelago, 70-year-old Fredrik Welin wakes to a searing light. He stumbles outside, recovering only a raincoat and two left boots on the way, and watches helplessly as his house burns to its foundations. This final novel from Mankell (the Kurt Wallander series), posthumously published in a stunning English translation, questions what happens to a person who has lost everything—and who considers himself too old to rebuild. Fredrik hardly has time to grieve the memories that burned along with the house’s contents; when investigators arrive to inspect the smoking ruins, they discover clear signs of arson. Could it be insurance fraud? Or does the responsibility lie with one of Fredrik’s neighbors, whom he’s known for years and who showed up in their boats to battle the flames? And how will Fredrik’s daughter—pregnant and harboring secrets of her own—react to the loss of her inheritance? Mankell’s understated yet thrilling use of language brings both the rugged scenery and Fredrik’s deep-rooted loneliness to life. It’s a skillfully told, exquisitely structured story filled with sharp insights into human nature and unflinching examinations of the complex relationships to which people bind themselves in order to feel a little bit less alone. (Oct.)