Sunday, 18 December 2016

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
First published as Mordare unte ansikte in Swedish in Sweden by Ordfronts Forlag in 1991. English language translation by Steven T Murray published in 1997.

One of my WorldReads from Sweden

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One frozen January morning at 5am, Inspector Wallander responds to what he believes is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath. An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, both victims of a violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, it unleashes a tide of racism.
Wallander's life is a shambles. His wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him, and even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly, and drinks his nights away. But now Wallander must forget his troubles and throw himself into a battle against time and against mounting racial hatred.

Twenty-five years after it was first published, I have finally read the first in the highly-praised Kurt Wallander crime series by Henning Mankell. What was most surprising for me was how topical this book still is. Its themes of anger against refugees and public paranoia being whipped up by irresponsible media outlets mean much of this book could have been written in 2016, not 1991. I liked how Mankell portrays Wallander although at some points I found it difficult to believe that the detective could keep functioning in such a battered state and with so little sleep! His burgeoning relationship with Brolin seemed a tad far-fetched too. I understand why he was attracted to her, but why on earth would she leave her family for him?

The Lunnarp case is an interesting one to follow. I liked seeing its ramifications spread and appreciated that it wasn't an easy case to crack and that Mankell didn't resort to dragging Wallander's close relations into improbable situations! With regards to actual police procedure, this novel felt far more realistic than many thrillers and the lack of 21st century technology meant we could focus on the police carrying out painstaking investigation work. I would have appreciated getting to know Wallander's colleagues better, but perhaps they will be more fleshed out as the series progresses. Overall though, and especially considering all the Wallander hype, I was disappointed by Faceless Killers. It is well-written, but I expected an amazing novel and this, I think, is only a good one.

Etsy Find!
by Cake Toppers By Louise in
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Books by Henning Mankell / Crime fiction / Books from Sweden


  1. I like the way how Henning Mankell told his stories very much, but I'm not particularly fond of the crime genre. I read one of the books from the Walander series, wrapped it as a present and gave it to a friend - so I don't know which one it was. However much I rack my brain, I can't tell if it was Faceless Killers or not. Obviously, I wasn't very impressed! At any rate, I liked Italian Shoes better (otherwise I wouldn't have reviewed it on Edith's Miscellany) although even there the Swedish author couldn't hide that he was first of all a gifted mystery writer.

    1. I might give Italian Shoes a try, thanks for the tip :-)

  2. Glad you could finally get around to this one after all this time! A bit of a shame that it disappointed you a bit, but it still sounds like quite a decent read? I like it when things are kept realistic though, so I don't know about this detective being able to keep going without taking the time to look after himself as well.

    1. It's ok, but I think I would recommend the Sjowall and Wahloo series of Martin Beck Swedish crime novels ahead of the Wallander ones