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Henning Mankell surpassed himself with this superb novel

  • Aug 2, 2010
Rating:
+5

Mankell literally surpassed himself with this remarkably presented tale of a gruesome murder that affects the lives of many people in many lands. After reading his first Kurt Wallander mystery, Faceless Killers, and the five short stories called The Pyramid, I thought of Henning Mankell as a good writer, but not a terrific one. This novel, which is not about his detective Wallander, the subject of ten of his mysteries, does not have the slow almost plodding pace I felt in the two other books of his that I read. The drama moves at a proper pace, with interesting characters, revealing intriguing information from time to time that does not fully disclose what prompted the murders or their impact upon society, but which draws the reader’s attention, causes her to think, and heightens her interest. I was surprised that I did not find this splendid novel among the top fifteen best sellers on the New York Times list.

 

      A photographer discovers a horrid group of murders in a small Swedish village where every inhabitant, everyone old, is brutally killed with repeated vicious knife wounds, as if the killer wanted the people to suffer as they lay dying. But three villagers are not killed or even attacked and a young boy is killed by a single thrust, without violence. Why old people? Why were two not quite old people and a senile woman spared? Why was the boy not mistreated? Is this a unique crime, or did it occur before?

 

      The police, led by a zaftig, aggressive, middle age, sharp-speaking detective and a lead prosecutor with book knowledge, but no experience, discover a somewhat disturbed repeat criminal who admits to the crime, and then commits suicide. A district court judge from another part of Sweden realizes that two of the victims had been foster parents to her mother. She travels to the village and finds objects and witnesses that the police refuse to examine: a ribbon from a local Chinese restaurant, the picture of the Chinese man who sat at the table when the ribbon was removed, a hotel owner who saw the man, a diary of a vicious Swedish man who mistreated Chinese, blacks, and Indians during the mid-1800s while these enslaved people were forced to build the American railroad.

 

      Besides the brutal murder of Swedes, interesting characters, and the story of the American railroads, the crime affects non-Swedish families, the future of China and Africa, and the judge finds herself pursued by unknown people both in Sweden and in England.

 

Henning Mankell surpassed himself with this superb novel

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More The Man from Beijing reviews
review by . January 24, 2011
Vendetta
The Man from Beijing is a Mankell novel in which Kurt Wallender never makes an appearance. The protagonist here is rather an unlikely one, being a 50-something Swedish woman who happens to be a highly regarded judge. A shocking mass murder has occurred in a remote northern village populated by elderly people, most of whom are related. When Birgitta discovers that the foster parents of her mother are among the dead, she travels to the scene of the crime to find out what the police know. Within days, …
review by . August 02, 2010
Mankell literally surpassed himself with this remarkably presented tale of a gruesome murder that affects the lives of many people in many lands. After reading his first Kurt Wallander mystery, Faceless Killers, and the five short stories called The Pyramid, I thought of Henning Mankell as a good writer, but not a terrific one. This novel, which is not about his detective Wallander, the subject of ten of his mysteries, does not have the slow almost plodding pace I felt in the two other books of …
review by . March 23, 2010
I have been enjoying the Wallander books, so I was looking forward to this new book by Mr. Mankell. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations.    It begins quite well, with an entire village of elderly people slaughtered for no apparent reason. After that, it begins to go steadily downhill. The protagonist is not a detective, but a female judge who puts herself right into the midle of the police investigation. Despite being told to stop getting involved, she continues …
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Israel Drazin ()
Ranked #67
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of twenty books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four … more
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A massacre in the remote Swedish village of Hesjövallen propels this complex, if diffuse, stand-alone thriller from Mankell (The Pyramid). Judge Birgitta Roslin, whose mother grew up in the village, comes across diaries from the house of one of the 19 mostly elderly victims kept by Jan Andrén, an immigrant ancestor of Roslin's. The diaries cover Andrén's time as a foreman on the building of the transcontinental railroad in the United States. An extended flashback charts the journey of a railroad worker, San, who was kidnapped in China and shipped to America in 1863. After finding evidence linking a mysterious Chinese man to the Hesjövallen murders, Roslin travels to Beijing, suspecting that the motive for the horrific crime is rooted in the past. While each section, ranging in setting from the bleak frozen landscape of northern Sweden to modern-day China bursting onto the global playing field, compels, the parts don't add up to a fully satisfying whole.Author tour. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Contents:

pt. 1. The silence. The epitaph --
The judge --
pt. 2. The railroad. The way to Canton --
The feather and the stone --
pt. 3. The red ribbon. The rebels --
The Chinese game --
pt. 4. The colonizers. Bark peeled off by elephants --
Chinatown, London.

Other title: Kinesen.  Translated from the Swedish by Laurie ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 0307271862
ISBN-13: 978-0307271860
Author: Henning Mankell
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Knopf
First to Review
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