book review – The White Lioness


This is the third book in the Kurt Wallander series by Swedish writer Henning Mankell. The first book Faceless Killers had a gripping story; tightness created by a rural Swedish geography and was a great read. The second book started to go a bit into the world of fantasy with Wallander fighting against Latvian corrupt police officers in Dogs of Riga.

The third again decides to stretch the horizon beyond Sweden. This time the target is South Africa and Mandela has just been released and political turmoil is expected. The story on paper works with Sweden being used as a training ground for an assassin that has been hired by white extremists to shoot Mandela. The problem is that the distance between the world of Wallander and the world of South African politics is too far.

As a result where the book works is when the story centres on Wallander and his battle with the KGB agent training the assassin in Sweden. The problem though is that this again starts to become fanciful and Wallander starts to break most of the rules and try to solve the crime in his own way with almost disastrous consequences.

There is nothing wrong with stretching imagination, after all isn’t that what fiction is all about, but when it comes to a police thriller you have to believe that what you are reading is possible. Whether it is Holmes, Morse or the other Swedish detective Martin Beck you want to believe that the actions of the hero are based broadly on truth. Here with guns going off, grenades being thrown into flats and bars and crazy Russians it is hard to stick with it.

Ultimately that was my problem. This was meant to be enjoyable but because it failed to make me believe in it then it started not to be enjoyable. Let’s not write the series off but for now I am going to take a break and head back towards some more established classic fiction.

Version read – Vintage paperback

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One comment

  1. arioborzine

    Some good reviews here of the Wallander novels, the reservations of which I share. I took a long break after this one, too, thinking it had become too fanciful and betrayed its down-to-earth premise. But I am pleased to say that the series picked up after this (the exception to my mind being Firewall, in which echoes of 24 or just too loud). The Fifth Woman and One Step Behind in particular return to the dreariness of police procedural work whilst maintaining the suspense throughout.

    But don’t let that distract you from the more classic fiction you’re reading. I felt the same way after completing the series and am now happily rereading Crime And Punishment. The old masters were the best after all.

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