A big thank you to Marcia at The Printed Page for originating Mailbox Monday. Mailbox Monday has gone on tour! Hosting for December is Lady Q of Let Them Read Books. January’s host will be Rose City Reader.
Since the holidays have come and gone that means more books made it into my household.
The White Lioness by Henning Mankell – Another Kurt Wallander mystery, this one takes place in Sweden and Africa.
A Life on Paper: Storiesby Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud – I’ve never heard of Chateaureynaud before and it seems I’m not the only one! He’s a French author and this translation covers stories from his career. When I read a review that described them as reality with an asterisk I wasn’t surprised to find it was published by Small Beer Press.
The Given Dayby Dennis Lehane – I’ve enjoyed watching several movies based on his books but never picked one up to read.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling – This is a slimmer volume than I expected.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – I love it that the idea of this book originated when his son was a young boy. It finally gelled into something when his son was grown up. Some ideas just take their time.
Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986 – 2006 by Chip Kidd with an introduction by John Updike – My husband is good at finding books for me I wouldn’t pick out for myself. Kidd is an author and graphic designer. He’s famous for his book covers. Glancing through the book there are several I recognize.
What arrived in your mailbox this week?
Yesterday morning I had the chance to listen to Henning Mankell on NPR’s Morning Edition. His latest novel doesn’t have his famous character, Inspector Kurt Wallander, in it. In fact, it’s mostly populated by women characters. Mankell read the opening scene. It is a desolate landscape and put a chill down this listener’s spine.
It was really interesting to hear him discuss his next piece of fiction. Based on a true story, the main character is a Swedish woman who travels to Africa and becomes an owner of a brothel. But that’s all he would say.
It’s not uncommon to talk about the premise of a novel only to lose the steam and enthusiasm for it. Even worse is to talk about it and let the unenthusiastic response of your listener discourage it from being written. What comes across well in the execution is usually missing from the verbal premise of it. Nick Hornby almost talked himself out of writing High Fidelity when he realized how boring it sounded.
I recently discovered that three of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander books have been made into movies for the BBC starring Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander. And Mankell is working on another Wallander book! The movies will air in the United States on PBS in the spring. Apparently many movies with Kurt Wallander as the main character have been made in Sweden.
When I read a book I usually imagine what the characters look like. If the author has done a poor job with description I have a difficult time picturing the character. Kenneth Branagh is not who I imagined as Kurt Wallander. In my head he looked a lot like Stellan Skarsgard but shorter. The publicity photos show Branaghas as an unshaven disheveled man and that is good enough for me. I doubt my image of Wallander will be replaced by Branagh when I read more of the books.
A few months ago I read Faceless Killers, the first Kurt Wallander book, and it’s still one of my favorite reads of the year. I’m anticipating enjoying these movies next year.
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.