23 February 2009

Review: THE PYRAMID, Henning Mankell

(The Kurt Wallander stories) translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg with Laurie Thompson, Harvill Secker, 2008, ISBN 9781846550980, 376 pages.

From Mankell's website:
The Pyramid is a collection of 5 short stories which gives readers more insight into the personal life of Kurt Wallander. While it was written after the 8th novel, Firewall, the events depicted in The Pyramid take place well before Faceless Killers, making it 1st chronologically in the series. The first story takes place in 1979 while the final occurs in 1989. In the stories, the reader sees Wallander on his first case and also before he meets his future wife Mona.

While a couple are short enough to be called short stories, at least the last two are long enough to be called novellas.
  • Wallander's First Case
  • The Man with the Mask
  • The Man at the Beach
  • The Death of the Photographer
  • The Pyramid
They trace Wallander's relationship with Mona, who will become his wife, then his ex-wife; with Linda his daughter whom he recognises holds the marriage together long after he and Mona have decided it holds nothing for them; and his father with whom he has an almost love-hate relationship. They also trace Wallander's growth as a detective, from when he is mentored by Hemberg, when he is still basically a cop on the beat, through to his rise as a detective, and his relationship with Rydberg, the mentor who replaced Hemberg, until Wallander was promoted over him.

As you do in the novels of Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell and Donna Leon, the reader becomes aware of social change, as refugees flood into Sweden, and drug trafficking replaces the old ways criminals used to make money. Mankell sees himself as a social commentator, and Kurt Wallender as his mouthpiece: (this is from the Foreword to THE PYRAMID)
"... the books have always been variations on a single theme: 'What is happening to the Swedish welfare state in the 1990s?..'.....
Wallander has in a way served as a kind of mouthpiece for growing insecurity, anger and healthy insights about the relationship between the welfare state and democracy".

I really enjoyed THE PYRAMID. Other reviewers have commented on a certain lack of tension in the short stories but then that is possibly the nature of a short story. I did feel a little as if this Kurt Wallander wasn't quite the same as the one we get in FACELESS KILLERS onwards. He is not the innocent depicted in his first case; he learns gradually not to "go it alone", after his impetuousness gets him into life threatening situations; his intuition is more carefully laid out for us than I remember in later novels.

THE PYRAMID is eminently readable, and if you are already a Henning Mankell fan, then you won't want to miss it.

My rating: 4.6

The Kurt Wallender series if you want to read them in proper order.
9 The Pyramid (The Wallander Stories) 2008
1 Faceless Killers 1997
2 The Dogs of Riga 2001
3 The White Lioness 1998
4 The Man Who Smiled 2005
5 Sidetracked 1998
6 The Fifth Woman 2000
7 One Step Behind 2002
8 Firewall 2004
9 The Pyramid (The Wallander Stories) 2008

Other reviews of THE PYRAMID
Reviewing the Evidence
It's Criminal
The Guardian

See also: What does Kurt Wallander look like?

Mini reviews from my database:

THE MAN WHO SMILED, my rating 4.7
Translated into English 2005, 4th in the Kurt Wallander series. Kurt Wallender has been on sick leave from the police in Ystadt for nearly 18 months. In his last case he accidentally killed an innocent man. Since then he has been in deep depression, and he has finally decided to leave the police force for good. He is however beginning to “mend”. While he is staying at a guest house in Skagen he is approached by a former friend, a solicitor, who tells him that his own father has died in a suspicious road accident. A few days later the solicitor himself is shot dead in his office. And Wallender finally makes up his mind – to go back to work!

SIDETRACKED, my rating 5.0
Midsummer approaches and Kurt Wallander clears his desk and prepares to set off on holiday with the new woman in his life, hoping that his wayward daughter and his ageing father will cope without him. But Wallander's plans are ruined when a girl douses herself in petrol and sets herself alight as he looks on, powerless to stop her. One, and then another, and then another, vicious murder - none with any apparent motive - shatter the tranquillity of the Swedish province of Skåne. As the temperature rises and the tension mounts, Wallander's search for the identity of the girl and the serial killer will throw him and the people he loves most into mortal danger.

FIREWALL, my rating 4.7
Set in Sweden in 1997. Two seemingly unrelated incidents occur within hours of each other in Ystad and Kurt Wallender and his team investigate. Tynnes Falk, seemingly in the peak of health, drops dead late one evening at the cash machine where he has just checked his account balance. The following night two teenage girls attack a taxi driver with a hammer and a knife. The driver was able to call for assistance and the police are able to find the girls from his description of them. Kurt Wallender has recently reached 50, he is diabetic, and desperately wants a woman in his life. Some members of his team think he is getting a bit "past it", and one in particular takes every possible opportunity to sow the seeds of doubt in the mind of Kurt's superior. This is an engrossing novel, quite a long read (422 pp) as Kurt Wallender uncovers a plot where an event in Sweden could have world shattering consequences.

1 comment:

Dorte H said...

Hi Kerrie.
I tried to send you my questions via email, but for some reason my mail refuses to cooperate. So here they are:

Five Questions Interview (Kerrie)
1) Who is your favourite book character? - Why?
2) As an avid reader of crime fiction, which three Australian crime fiction writers would you recommend to readers who are not familiar with Australian literature?
3) If you were restricted to read crime fiction from one country, which one would you choose? - why?
4) What does having a blog give you?
5) Some people do not regard crime fiction as ´real´ literature. How would you defend the genre?

Feel free to reformulate the questions so they suit you & your blog better - you may offer sending five questions to your readers if you like.
- have fun!


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