Fiction: “Faceless Killers” by Henning Mankell

This past summer, I watched the first Wallander mystery on PBS. A) It starred Kenneth Branaugh, which probably led me to the weird scientist-in-early-1900s-London dream that starred Kenneth Branaugh, even though I totally fell asleep and missed the last half. B) Even with falling asleep, I was able to solve the case before Wallander did. (Heard in my apartment: “It’s the ATM machine, jackass!” “Weren’t you asleep?” “… Osmosis. And I’m smarter than Branaugh.”)

C) Even after all of that, I still bought the first Wallander mystery, Faceless Killers, on a whim one sultry night in Borders. (I’m probably making the sultry part up. It’s late, and my sugar high is dying.) And y’know? Not half bad. Sure, it put me to sleep a couple of times, but it was close to 3 a.m. and again, tired.

The plot: an elderly farmer couple is brutally murdered early one January morning. Kurt Wallander and his team are assigned to the murder. They have very few clues to go on – the woman’s final word is “foreign,” which seems to point towards one of the recently formed immigration camps in the area. This could create a powderkeg in their little Swedish community, and so they hopefully – unconsciously? – search all other avenues.

But then a Somali man is brutally gunned down … could they all be connected?

The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ Since I can’t remember much of the Masterpiece episode, I didn’t really have a lot to go on, comparison-wise. The language was very spare, and it helped create a cold, hard atmosphere. At times, it almost read like a police report, but again, it didn’t hurt the book.

When the storyline does delve into Wallander’s personal life, you get hit with just how bleak his life is — his wife, Mona, has left him; his daughter Linda doesn’t talk to him; his father’s becoming senile, and he’s near-alcoholic lonely.

He could feel his stomach churning. I’m repressing things, he thought. Along with everything else I don’t have time for. I’m searching for the slayers of the dead and can’t even manage to pay attention to the living. For a dizzying instant his entire consciousness was filled with only one urge. To take off. Flee. Disappear. Start a new life.

He stepped onto the little dais and welcomed his audience to the press conference. [97]

See? He just gets beaten down by everything, and has the gut reaction to flee, which he then represses to continue with his police matters and solving the mystery, because first and foremost, Wallander is a police officer.

I liked it – much more than I thought I would (and much more than I’m currently enjoying Little Women – seeing as how I both began and finished reading this while I was still reading Little Women), and I’m intrigued enough to read the next book in the series. Later. Y’know, after I finish Little Women. Is it enough to rewatch the Masterpiece Mystery episode? I’m … I’m not sure yet. Time will tell.

Grade for Faceless Killers: 3 stars

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