Henning Mankell is best known for his detective creation Kurt Wallander (immortalized on screen by the inimitable Kenneth Branagh). However, he recently published a stand-alone thriller called The Man from Beijing.
Birgitta Roslin is by all accounts a successful woman – married, mother of lovely adult children, and a respected judge. However, she still finds herself stuck at home with unexplained high blood pressure and a remote husband. A number of factors conspire to put Roslin at the centre of a most unpleasant mystery.
In the tiny hamlet of Hesjövallen (pop. 22), 19 people (most of them elderly, but one young boy) have been slaughtered – hacked to pieces, most of them – in a bloodbath as unexpected as it is revolting. Roslin discovers that her mother’s adoptive parents are among the slain.
Armed with nothing more than some old letters, an irritating curiousity and more free time than she knows what to do with, Roslin embarks on an accidental investigation that takes her more than halfway around the world.
The Man from Beijing has all the elements of a good thriller – an inexperienced and accidental sleuth, a gadfly reporter, a hardboiled cop (a woman no less!), hyper-national conspiracies and dark and festering ties to the past. In fact, while I was reading it, the book was a thriller. Now, a day out from finishing, I am no longer convinced that it really was a thriller after all.
But if the worst thing one can say about a book is that the experience didn’t really hold up (like so much tissue paper in the rain), well, there are certainly worse things to read! Having enjoyed this stand-alone, I will likely be much more inclined to enter the world of Wallander and introduce yet another eccentric detective into the pantheon of gumshoes in my mind!
This one is also available as an audiobook – I am guessing it might make an even better listen than it did a read!