Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Faceless Killers introduces the Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander, to US readers.  (There are approximately a dozen books featuring Wallander but not all have been translated into English.)  One cold evening, an elderly farm couple is attacked.  The husband is killed and the wife is found barely alive.  She’s able to offer clues to solve the crime before she passes away from her injuries.  The clues point to non-Swedish suspects which can turn the case into a political situation if not handled with tact.  While trying to thoroughly follow the leads Wallander receives threatening phone calls, discovers a source leak in the department and more blood is shed. 

Kurt Wallander is a middle-aged man alienated from his daughter, recently divorced from his wife, distant from his sister and too preoccupied with work to deal with his aging father.  Each of the relatives make an appearance and not always at convenient times.  Add an attractive prosecutor to the mix and Wallander’s work is no longer the refuge it once was.

Mankell packs a lot into this novel.  In less adept hands this could be a mess.  The police procedural information and work environment are easy to follow.  Mankell provides enough details to keep the reader informed and engaged without giving a course or lecture on the topic.  The writing is also superb.  When Wallander is out on surveillance your own joints ache as though you were the one asked to move in the freezing cold weather. 

Wallander is not a super detective; he’s a man who is trying to do the best he can in his present situation.  He’s aware of his imperfections and tries to figure out what he can change so he can have a happier life.  Faceless Killers is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

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