The similarity between Mankell and Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo is the commitment to detail police procedure down to a level that sometimes seems unnecessary but as a result it makes the story so much more believable.
It is also clearly set in a period of flux. In some respects Wallander is in the same position as Sheriff Bell in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Both characters are starting to question their ability to fight off drug related crime and cope in a world where the respect for the law is almost non existent.
“Rydberg gave him a sceptical look. Then he stood up to go. He paused at the door.
‘The daughter that I talked to, the one from Canada, had her husband with her. The Mountie. He wondered why we don’t carry guns. ‘
‘In a few years we probably will,’ said Wallander.”
The problems for the detective in a case without almost any clues is that the last words the dying woman says who becomes the second murder victim is that those responsible were foreigners.
That puts the spotlight on the nearby refugee asylum and various nutters come out of the woodwork threatening to stir up race hatred. The book is set in 1990 but the themes resonate 17 years later because ultimately the breakdown of the law is not something that happens overnight.
The case begins to unravel with the brother of the murdered woman revealing that the landowner was indeed rich and had made money out of collaborating with the Nazi’s and kept his fortune, along with a mistress and a son, hidden from his wife. A bank search reveals that the story appears to be true but there is no sign of the mistress.
Meanwhile on the relationship front Wallander finally gets in touch with his wife but is hostile, forgets to visit his father and has no idea what his daughter is up to.