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An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell

Back in the pre-blog days, when I charged through my Scandi-crime phase, I read every Wallander title that Mankell produced. I’d first stumbled across “The Dogs of Riga” in a charity shop, and liked it very much; OH went on to not only provide me with the rest of the Wallanders as Christmas gifts, but also the Martin Beck books (the precursors of all Scandi-crime, and also the best). Over the years since, any new Wallanders appeared at various Christmas or birthdays, until the last one, “The Troubled Man”, which I reviewed here. So I thought I’d read them all – until a casual browse in the Samaritans Book Cave revealed “An Event in Autumn”, and I found myself puzzled – because I didn’t remember reading it…..

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And indeed I hadn’t! Somehow, this little novella had slipped past me; originally written in 2002, it only saw the light of day in English in 2014 (after “The Troubled Man”) and I guess I didn’t notice. However, it fits into the storyline before that book, and finds Kurt sharing his flat with daughter Linda, with both of them working for the police. But Kurt is looking to move out of the city and a colleague suggests a house that one of his relatives is selling. Our hero visits, and takes a liking to the place; but this being Wallander, the rake handle he thought he stumbled over in the garden niggles away in his mind as being not quite right, and when he goes back to take another look, it turns out to be the bones of a human arm…

Needless to say, this has to be investigated! I’m not going to say any more about the plot, except to say that it’s one of the kind I love best, which involved delving back into the past to try and solve a mystery. Wallander is his usual moody self, and watching his relationship with his daughter and how they carefully circle each other, is fascinating. It’s also clear to see where Mankell was taking Wallander’s story, with the benefit of hindsight!

Reading “An Event in Autumn”, however slim it is, was a great joy; the sense of place was strong and the mystery satisfying, although I did think it was worthy of longer treatment and a slightly less abrupt denouement. Nevertheless it’s a worthy addition to the Wallander canon and definitely recommended! 🙂

Recent Reads: The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell

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I have a little confession to make – this week I’ve been doing something I haven’t done for a long time, which is reading two books in tandem. Not the biggest crime in the world, I know, but a tendency I’ve suppressed recently as I often ended up not finishing books because of doing this.

But I started “Underground Overground” at the start of the week, which I’m over halfway through and still enjoying. I paused while I did a little research on old Tube maps online, as maps are the only thing lacking in the book, and got sidetracked a little by the last Wallander – “A Troubled Man” by Henning Mankell, which Youngest Child got me for Christmas.

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I’ve read all of the Wallander books; in fact, I had quite a Scandinavian crime fiction fad a few years back, and I read all of the Martin Beck series, all of the Wallanders and some Inspector Irene Huss books by Helene Tursten. I confess that I haven’t followed through with more of the modern authors – tried a Jo Nesbo and the Stieg Larssons, but I found these disappointing, just too violent and without the depth of the other books I read. I am, however, inordinately fond of Arnaldur Indridason’s Icelandic detective Erlenudur!

Anyway – anyone who has read any of Mankell’s Wallander books will know what to expect – a complex plot, some lovely scenery, Wallander going through various stages of confusion, depression and anger…. Well, that probably makes them sound a little clichĂ©d – they’re not, really, and at nearly 500 pages this is certainly an absorbing read!

The troubled man of the title is HĂĄkan von Enke, the prospective father-in-law of Wallander’s daughter, Linda – but it’s obvious that the epithet also applies to the detective himself, as he is beset with a variety of issues throughout the book. HĂĄkan inexplicably disappears, after half-confiding some vague secrets to Wallander, and this is followed by the later disappearance of his wife Louise, who then turns up murdered halfway through the book. There are a number of complex sub-plots about spying, submarine incidents and relationships between various countries during the Cold War, plus quite an array of characters.

The plot and the denouement themselves are absorbing enough, but Mankell is also using the book to settle most of Wallander’s accounts and tie up the loose ends in his life, leaving him to slope off into the proverbial sunset. Kurt’s past loves, in the form of his ex-wife Mona and lover Baiba, are revisited and settled up with. There’s a lot of ruminating on his relationship with his father, his daughter and colleagues. Many of the locations and events of past cases are referenced.  There’s disillusionment with the state of the modern world and also the way Sweden is currently running its police force. All of this is interesting, and is never so long-winded that it detracts from the plot. Wallander’s health has its ups and downs, and he manages a lot of travel in the book. There’s also plenty of tragedy waiting in the wings…

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Obviously, this is not the place to start if you are coming to Mankell’s Wallander books for the first time and they should definitely be read in order. But it’s a fitting finale for the detective, moving in places, exciting and intriguing – I read it at a gallop and really enjoyed it! Mankell’s books are not my favourite Swedish crime fiction – as far as I’m concerned, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series holds the crown, they’re just a magnificent series of books. But Mankell’s stories run a very close second and this is a worthy addition to the canon.

Now I need to get back to the Tube!

Christmas Bookish Lovelies!

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Not content with spoiling me on my recent birthday, my family and friends provided me with some treats at Christmas too! First up are three rather nice volumes from OH, all of which are parts of ongoing serial-types:

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I’ve read all Mankell’s Wallander series and also all of Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde series, so both of these were well received. The Nicola Upson “Josephine Tey”  books are new to me but I’ve been wanting to read them for a while as I love Tey’s books.  However, OH seems to have presented me with book four, which is a perfect excuse to track down the other three….!

Next up, some gifts from Eldest Child:

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I confess to being a great lover of Cath Kidston, and a wannabee-sewer so her “Sew!” book may come in handy! As for the cookbook – I’ve been vegetarian since I was 18 and have drifted in and out of veganism many times (always being seduced by damn cheese) – but I think my health would benefit from the shift back to veganism so this is a rather timely gift.

Youngest Child came up with something very lovely too:

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As I’m a huge fan of Sylvia Plath, this book about her visual artwork is of course essential – very excited!

And finally the in-laws, under instruction from OH, provided this:

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Of course, I was lucky enough to see the actual Scroll on its recent visit to the British Library so I was very excited to receive this volume. I confess, it’s the first one I picked up from the lot to read! Thanks, lovely family!

And a last-minute addition from an old friend, V:

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I do love the original Holmes stories and have read some offshoot books, so I’m hoping this will be good! Thanks, V!

What about you? Were you spoiled this Yule?

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