Kurt Wallander Kenneth Branagh
Liv's London

Scandinavian fiction

I go through phases when I only read crime fiction and in this genre I find, for me, Henning Mankell is one of the best. After just looking him up on the internet a few days ago I realised he had passed away on 5th October this year… I will now cherish the rest of the ‘Wallander series’ even more…

I have read the following:

  • The Troubled Man
  • Dogs of Riga
  • The Pyramid
  • Faceless Killers
  • The Shadow Girls

and not in chronological order. It’s too late now but I realised they all follow main character’s, Kurt Wallander’s, career from the start when he became a detective. I’ve now jumped back and forth but I will put the remaining books I’m yet to read into right order.

Scandinavia produces a huge volume of crime fiction. Goodreads lists all of these. Mankell’s books have been translated into 40 languages and in Germany they even outsell Harry Potter! A few fun facts I found out from watching extra features on the BBC’s Wallander series DVDs over the weekend. 😉 I think Kenneth Branagh portrayed Wallander remarkably well.

Anyway, back to the books that I’ve read thus far. The first book (The Troubled Man) was given to me by my father who also enjoys reading books from this genre and I was immediately drawn in. The stories are dark and dramatic, the murders are violent and gruesome (not something I particularly enjoy) and Kurt Wallander is this ordinary (or perhaps quite on the contrary, rather extraordinary, due to his high level perception, self-awareness and intelligence) police detective who battles with depression, melancholy and has difficult relationships with his divorced wife, estranged father and teenage daughter.

There are no Sherlock’s mind games or Poirot’s theatrics, what distinguishes him is how normal he is, it’s also his humanity and capacity for empathy that ultimately exhaust him.

It’s also fascinating how some fictional characters take on life on their own. The setting of the books is in a small town in southern Sweden, called Ystad, and it draws hordes of tourists looking to eat the ‘Wallander cake’ in a local café and who also go to Mariegatan knocking on doors wanting to see where ‘he lived’. The mind boggles… Same how Sherlockians go to 221b Baker Street imagining how their fictional idol would just step out of the door.

But talk about normal… I also quite enjoy reading about what Wallander likes to eat or cook for dinner. Describing what one eats seems to be a common theme with Stieg Larsson’s Mikael Blomkvist who only survives on coffee and sandwiches. And Swedes make mean sandwiches! I like these little details. It confirms that those heroes are people like us, who eat, sleep (or don’t, Wallander struggles with insomnia), get ill (he gets diabetes) and make mistakes like everyone else.

So if you’re in for some gloomy detective stories and want to borrow any of these books, give me a shout. 😉 Provided that you live in London.

(Featured image source)

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