Sunday, January 5, 2014

Faceless Killers: Review

So...Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell is the first in the Kurt Wallender series.  It all starts with a rather horrific crime at a rather remote farm on a cold night in Sweden.  An elderly man is beaten and stabbed with enough wounds that he could have died from any of them.  His wife is left for dead--nearly strangled to death with a noose around her neck.  Wallender hopes that the neighbors have raised the alarm in time to save Maria Lovgren and that she will be able to help identify the killer/s.  Unfortunately, Maria wakes just once before she dies and manages to whisper only the word "Foreign" before she's gone.

Word that foreigners may be involved is leaked to the news agencies and soon Wallender and his fellow officers have another problem on their hands.  There is already unrest due to the number of refugees and foreign nationals seeking asylum in Sweden. The news that foreigners may be responsible for such a vicious crime brings out the Neo-Nazi wackos and even the just plain old Sven citizen who sees a threat to his family's safety.  An unidentified man begins calling Wallender to tell him that there will be retribution on the refugees if the police don't solve the crime by a certain deadline...the pressure is mounting.

Then the case seems to break wide open.  A man comes forward with information about Johannes Lovgren's secret life--involving black market horses supplied to the Germans during the war and a mistress that no one else knew about.  Wallender and his men set to work to discover whether this murder has deep roots in a rather murky past.

Spoilers ahead.  Just warning you now.
Wallender is so depressing in this one.  I don't remember him being that depressing in One Step Behind (which I loved, btw).  Of course, in Faceless Killers, Wallender's wife has just recently left.  And yet....A new Assistant Prosecutor comes to town.  Wallender is all "A new prosecutor.  I don't want to work with her.  Where's my old buddy?  I want him.  I...Wait a minute.  She's hot.  I love her.  I'm going to tell my wife I'm in love with another woman."  And he makes a pass at her after seeing her twice. And she's married...but that doesn't seem to phase him.  Got a few problems much, Wallender?

This is also just a depressing book.  A brutal, seemingly senseless murder of an elderly couple.  Which turns mid-way into a somewhat interesting brutal murder when it looks like it may have been a revenge killing with roots in the husband's secret life.  But then it winds up really being a brutal, senseless murder....and we are left with Wallender to wonder why these horrible men put the noose around the wife's neck.  Very unsatisfying.

The storyline and the description of police work is fair.  The dialogue is a bit stilted in places--but it's hard to say how much of that is inherent to Mankell's writing style and how much is due to translation.  But it does make for difficult going at times.  If I didn't know how good these stories become by #7, I wouldn't read any more by Mankell.  As it is, I'm now going to be reading them in order so I can see the progress and how long it takes for Wallender to become a more interesting character and for Mankell to become a more interesting and accomplished writer.  Two and a half stars--rounded to three on GoodReads.

Challenges Met: Outdo Yourself, Mount TBR Challenge, Around the World, Bookish TBR, 1001 Books Before You Die, Meet the Protagonist, Monthly Motif, Century of Books, Men in Uniform, Adam's TBR Challenge, Million Pages, How Many Books, My Kind of Mystery, 100 Plus Challenge, Book Bingo, Literary Exploration, A-Z Reading Challenge, European Reading Challenge, A-Z Mystery Author Challenge


Jen K said...

I read this one last year, and since I'd never read anything else in the series, it completely turned me off from it. His interactions with the new prosecutor struck me as sexist, and he wasn't a protagonist I could root for. I'm definitely curious to see your progress with the series and whether I should reconsider reading more of it.

Bev Hankins said...

Yeah...if this had been the first book I read, I definitely wouldn't be doing any more.

jmisgro said...

Sounds like a good one!!

Iliana said...

I read this one years ago and haven't gotten around to following up on the series. I have watched some of the Wallander shows by BBC and a Swedish version too and I really enjoy those so I'd like to give the series another shot.

Man of la Book said...

Love the comments here, seems live a divisive book, perfect for a book club.

fredamans said...

Hope this series gets better for you quick! I haven't read any, and frankly don't think I will. I am curious to see when it picks up for you as well.