Faceless Killers

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell is the first book I read for my exploration of Police Procedurals from around the world. The only book by Mankell I had read previously was Italian Shoes.

Faceless Killers features Swedish Inspector Kurt Wallander, a senior policeman with the Ystad Police, and with his life in shambles. His wife has left him, his daughter refuses to talk to him, his father is an irascible old man bordering on dementia who paints, and has painted for many years, the same landscape over and over again.

Inspector Wallender is fed up with everyone and everything but when he arrives at the scene of a brutal “blood bath” at 5am one cold winter’s morning,Wallender must put his personal problems aside to find the killer or killers.

“An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, both victims of a violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, it unleashes racial hatred.”

When the old man, Johannnes Lövgrens turns out to have a few surprises in his past, and present, the mystery deepens. He not only has bank accounts known only to himself but an illegitimate son, also unknown, somewhere in Sweden.

This is Sweden in January 1990 when the country was faced with open borders resulting in immigration problems, overcrowded refuge camps and more and more people pouring into the country.Xenophobia is rife as the neo-nazis oppose the immigrants.

“You better come back,” said Rydberg. “Some idiot has shot a Somali refuge at Hageholm.’

“What the hell do you mean by that?”

“Exactly what I said. This Somali was out taking a stoll. Someone blasted him with a shotgun. I’ve had a hell of a time tracking you down. Where have you been?”

“Is he dead?”

“His head was blown off.”

The dialogue in this book is crisp, to the point and extremely enjoyable. It is impossible for me to tell if this is the original Swedish or the results of translation into English.

Wallander is on the trail of two suspects believed to have killed the Somali.

“When he reached the street level again, he just had time to see Ström stop a car, drag the driver out, and drive off.

The only vehicle nearby was a large horsebox. The owner was pulling a pack of condoms from a vending machine on a shop wall. When Wallander came racing up, his gun drawn and blood streaming down his face, the man dropped the condoms and ran for his life.”

What follows is a car chase to end all car chases as “horses were whinnying behind him, and he smelled the odour of warm manure”. A bruised and battered Wallander survives to fight another fight.

Title: Faceless Killers

Author: Henning Mankell

Translation by: Steven T. Murray

Publisher: Vintage Books, London, 2009


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