With the recent broadcasting of Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Inspector Wallander, played as an emotionally crippled, intense man who relies on his extraordinary intuition, Mankell’s excellent novels are once again in the spotlight. He’s not a patch on Krister Henriksson’s brooding and detached version, but so far Branagh has stayed true to Mankell’s truly inspiration novels, which is a bonus.
Branagh’s version of The Troubled Man is soon to be shown, therefore I thought I’d review the book that inspired it and encourage anyone who can lay their hands on a copy to read it as soon as possible.
This is a truly exceptional book, and one which I cannot recommend highly enough. Packed with excitement, adventure, politics and human drama, the novel is a great way to learn about Swedish history (to get in with the cool kids who all think they’re great because they watched the Daniel Craig version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).
It is also a great read by itself, and is a fantastic example of the superb writing style that made Mankell a household name throughout Europe long before Larsson. Whilst other of Mankell’s attempts to combine human stories with politics (such as the confused The Man from Beijing) suffer from poor human drama and ridiculous plots, The Troubled Man is an excellent example of a narrative woven around a political plot which could have dramatic consequences.
The plot centres around Wallander and his new father in law, Haken von Enke, a disguised formal navel officer, who goes missing following his birthday party, at which he revels to Wallander a story from his past. Wallander, officially suspended after an incident which threatens to destroy his life, conducts an informal investigation which draws him into the heart of an international conspiracy.
Like many of the previous novels, this is a thrilling read, although luckily it does not suffer as some do from overactive plotting (the ridiculous ending to The Man Who Smiled springs to mind).
Everything, from the characterisation of Wallander and the new family his daughter has married into, down to the portrayal of Ystad and the use of the novel’s setting as an additional character, are pure perfection. If you only ever read one more book, make sure it is this one.