Friday, May 9, 2014

The Troubled Man, by Henning Mankell

Henning Mankell. The Troubled Man. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 367 pages. ISBN 9780307593498.

The Troubled Man is the last book in the popular Swedish author Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series. Wallander is a police officer in a small Swedish town, and he lives in a cottage on the coast. His daughter is also a police officer, and when she becomes pregnant, Wallander meets her future in-laws, Hakan and Louise, and begins to socialize with them on occasion. At one such event, Hakan tells Wallander about a situation that has bothered him for many years, in which a Soviet submarine was located in Sweden's territorial waters, but was then allowed to escape. Hakan has suspected for years that there was a conspiracy within the high ranks of Swedish politics that enabled the Soviet sub to get away, and has been investigating it informally ever since.

When Hakan disappears not long after his party, Wallander's daughter asks him to help investigate Hakan's disappearance. The situation becomes even more mysterious when Louise disappears months later, and is subsequently found dead, an apparent suicide. Wallander continues to follow the trail of clues until he tracks down and solves the mystery surrounding Hakan, Louise, and the activities of both the Soviet and American militaries during the cold-war era.

I found the story and plotting of The Troubled Man to be a little flat. Not having read any of Mankell's other books I don't know if this is his normal style or whether it's due to the translation. The Wallander character is perennially depressed, and he makes bad decisions and drinks too much throughout the book. I found him particularly hard to empathize with. Nevertheless, I would give the author another chance; perhaps I'll read one of his stand-alone novels, such as The Man from Beijing, or an earlier Wallander book.

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