There is always a danger with mixing politics with a thriller that it will get in the way as it has to be explained to the reader which distracts from the chase to catch the killers. Although it doesn’t get too bogged down in Eastern European post USSR politics it does slow things up. There is also a feeling that because the main character is in unknown surroundings it is also a limited horizon compared to the darting about he does with confidence back in Sweden.
The other problem with going on about a specific point in the history of the disintegration of the former Soviet Union is that it does feel rather dated. Sure the same problems still exist in terms of drugs being smuggled across borders and corruption but if you mention Riga to most people now the image that comes to mind is a location for stag parties rather than a dark, cold and mysterious location that is gripped by subterfuge and political tension.
As the shift from police based thriller to something more akin to a spy novel it leaves Wallander wandering and driving round Riga trying to avoid the people following him and trying to work out why the friends of the dead Latvian policeman he has come to help insist on such secrecy. After some coming and going with the wife of the dead policeman and her friends Wallander decides that the murdered policeman was onto a consipracy that involved one or both of his superiors.
But with one of the friends of the murder victim fitted up for the crime the time of Wallander’s official visit comes to an end and he promises to return as a tourist and help them solve the mystery.
At this point credibility is being stretched to breaking point but it should be fun seeing just how Wallander blows the lid on the conspiracy.