Sidetracked

by Henning Mankell

Publishers Weekly 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 investigationÄand his often lyrical portrayal of Wallander's struggle to rearrange his thought processes in order to catch the criminalÄare 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)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list "The violence that previously was concentrated in the large cities had also reached his own police district. . . . The world had both shrunk and expanded at the same time." That mantra is being chanted by fictional cops all across Europe, but none with more insistence than Kurt Wallander of Ystad, Sweden. In this third Wallander adventure to be translated into English, the overworked inspector is confronted by a serial killer who slaughters and scalps his victims with a hatchet. Torn between the enormity of this case and his perpetual family problems, Wallander slogs on, using the very tedium of the investigative process to insulate himself from the horrors he faces. Mankell effectively contrasts Wallander's crisp attention to procedural detail with the all-pervading sense of melancholy that enshrouds his inner life. There is a sameness of tone to the Wallander novels that becomes a bit oppressive eventually, but they remain a quintessential example of the hard-boiled European procedural. (See "A Hard-Boiled Gazetteer to Europe in Asia" [BKL Ap 15 98].) --Bill Ott

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal A young girl spends a day almost catatonic in an isolated farm field, then immolates herself. Sweden's retired minister of justiceÄa man with a pornographic interest in young girlsÄtakes his usual evening walk on the beach and meets a murderer's axe. With these possibly connected cases on his plate, series policeman Kurt Wallander (Faceless Killers, LJ 12/96) and his team interrupt their personal agendas to identify the girl, expose unsavory personal/political secrets, and deal with the subsequent connected murder of an art dealer. Full of emotion yet cleanly written, apparently straightforward yet fraught with intriguing revelations, Mankell's latest mystery is strongly recommended.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.