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by Henning Mankell
New Press, August 2000
286 pages
ISBN: 1565846052

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It is nice to know that there are good mystery novels published in other countries where English is not its native language. Sweden has provided several great Swedish writers whose works are slowly being introduced to English-speaking audiences. Henning Mankell is a respected writer who has written several plays and has written six police procedural novels featuring Ystad police inspector Kurt Wallander. Faceless Killers is the first book in the series and it is very good.

In the farming town of Lenarp, there has been a brutal assault against an elderly couple. Before Maria Lovgren died, she was asked who did this to her. The only word she was able to whisper was 'foreign' and it is creating a problem at the local police department.

There has been a series of attacks targeting illegal immigrants kept at camps throughout Sweden. There is a xenophobic vigilante who takes matters into his own hands and threaten to kill a foreigner if the police does not find the killers of Johannes and Maria Lovgren. The police are no closer to solving the case as they were days ago.

Faceless Killers was a pleasant surprise to read. The problem affecting most Americans are just the same as in Sweden. There is racism, bigotry, senseless violence, and bureaucracy.

Another impressive aspect of this debut work is the way the author introduces his main character and all his concerns, knowing that it will not be resolved in one book. The inspector is lonely after his wife left him; he has gained weight; his father shows signs of senility; he is an alcoholic; he is in love with a married woman; and he wallows in self-pity. Each one of those things make the character seem a bit more human and causes the reader to be interested as to how Kurt handles his day by day.

The crime-solving aspect of this book is a treat because everything is not solved with a bow on top. The police investigate every single lead and the reader is privy to the successes as well as the dead ends. Several red herrings are used throughout the book and none of them are used gratuitously. The actions inside the book takes several months, not days like in you see in other books. Thanks to New Press for introducing Mankell to the United States. May his works continue to prosper with a new and broader audience.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, January 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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