Translated from Swedish by Stephen T. Murray 2000
Audio from Audible.com
The massacre of 5 women in remote Africa, including a Swedish tourist, triggers a serial killer in Sweden to begin working through a list of 43 targets. The first victim is a retired motor vehicle distributor, unmarried, and interested only in birdwatching and writing poetry about birds. He dies cruelly in the middle of the night when the bridge he has to cross to get to his bird watch tower collapses.
Kurt Wallander has just returned from a "pilgrimage" to Rome with his father. It is a trip his father has long wanted to do, and Wallander marvels at how it seems to have brought them closer. But his father is 80. Is it too late?
The reader really participates in THE FIFTH WOMAN through two points of view. On the one hand we know who is behind the killings, but not why, because we are there when the killer is unleashed by the news of the death of the Swedish tourist. We are also sitting on Wallander's shoulder as he returns to work from his holiday and gradually falls back into his working routine. In the week he has been away, their new boss Lisa Holgerson has taken over the section, but apart from the suntan he acquired in Rome not much is different. Wallander of course does not know who is behind the killings, and for quite a long period does not realise there is more than one. The discovery of a shrunken African head in the safe of the retired Volvo salesman is a real distraction.
As I listened to this I was struck by the meticulous nature of the way Wallander works. He goes over the evidence again and again. He works with Anne Britt Hoogland to get a different perspective and they constantly sift what they already know, what the forensics will support, and apply theories based on the new knowledge they acquire. And yet at the same time he is intuitive, in a way that few others in his team are. They too are all methodical but they don't have the niggling thoughts and the flashes of intuition that Wallander has. And yet none of this would make sense if he didn't know his case so well.
As with other detectives, Wallander's personal life suffers. The collapse of his first marriage came as a surprise to him. His work is so engrossing that he just doesn't realise he is giving nothing to Mona and their daughter. He enjoys his trip to Rome with his father and means to follow it up with closer contact, but there just isn't time.
This is a terrific novel. My rating 5.0
THE FIFTH WOMAN is the 6th in the Wallander series. Check Euro Crime for a list.
Other Mankell titles reviewed on this blog
THE MAN FROM BEIJING