The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Wallander, drowning in the depths of marginally treated depression after shooting a man in the line of duty in book #3, had decided to come back to work after a year and a half when he reads an acquaintance has been murdered. He finds an office that isn't any different than from when he went on sick leave, and yet, with the introduction of policewoman Anne-Britt Hoglund, everything has changed. (My apologies if I misspell names - I don't get spellings on an audiobook).
This book ate at my nerves - I found Marttenson and Svedburg to be stupid for policemen. For example, Wallander would call and say, "I need someone from the bomb squad out at Mrs. Dinears house right away!"
Marttenson would reply "Why? What's going on?"
Wallander, "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Marttenson, "Tell me!"
"There is a bomb in her yard." Wallander would growl.
"But! But! That's impossible!" Marttenson would whine.
Then Wallander would shout, "Get me the bomb squad right now!" and hang up.
This conversation would repeat itself, well, repeatedly, with various characters and Wallander over the course of the book. Seriously? If a colleague calls and says "I need X" why did the other detectives insist on going "Why? That's impossible!" I felt like banging my head on the steering wheel. They are policemen and detectives, they should expect the unexpected.
I found Wallander's character to be an asshole and it's hard to be sympathetic to a main character when you just don't like him. He was rude to everyone, short tempered, and sexist. I found myself drifting off into other thoughts as I listened to the the book (despite the outstanding narrator's abilities) and would have to go back a tract or two to figure out what the heck just happened.
I also thought the pacing of The Man Who Smiled to be rather slow, and I think in part that is because the team was investigating a "paper crime" for the most part; that is, the murders had to be solved via a paper trail to implicate the antagonist. Paper trails are not that exciting to write about, which is why I suspect the book really didn't pick up pace until the end (disk 10, I have no idea what chapters those were).
So over all, this book felt fragmented, unrealistic and was vaguely annoying. Recommended with significant reservations (like you are reading through the Wallander series).
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