Category: Henning Mankell

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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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

The White Lioness – post VI

This has been a bit of a hangover from 2007 and so it is with some sense of relief that it has finally come to a conclusion.

The thriller ends with some bravery in style with Wallander the hero sliding into depression after solving an international crime. Part of the problem is that the crime was too big for the humble Swedish policeman and he never realised how much he did to foil a plot to kill Mandela.

This is an incredibly political book and although the message is a worthy one it does make that mistake of preaching sometimes. There is a postscript where Mankell makes the point that the period in South Africa before the first free elections was one of major insecurity. The problem is that reading this book now it is all a bit historic and we know what happened with Mandela so the sense of tension is lost slightly. The other problem is that towards the end there are a series of mistakes that are meant to add to the tension but after a while become slightly irritating.

I’m not sure if I would read the next book in the series. Maybe, but I’m going to take a break from this type of fiction for a while and head back to something old and something Russian.

A review will follow shortly…

The White Lioness – post VI

This has been a bit of a hangover from 2007 and so it is with some sense of relief that it has finally come to a conclusion.

The thriller ends with some bravery in style with Wallander the hero sliding into depression after solving an international crime. Part of the problem is that the crime was too big for the humble Swedish policeman and he never realised how much he did to foil a plot to kill Mandela.

This is an incredibly political book and although the message is a worthy one it does make that mistake of preaching sometimes. There is a postscript where Mankell makes the point that the period in South Africa before the first free elections was one of major insecurity. The problem is that reading this book now it is all a bit historic and we know what happened with Mandela so the sense of tension is lost slightly. The other problem is that towards the end there are a series of mistakes that are meant to add to the tension but after a while become slightly irritating.

I’m not sure if I would read the next book in the series. Maybe, but I’m going to take a break from this type of fiction for a while and head back to something old and something Russian.

A review will follow shortly…

The White Lioness – post V

The humble Swedish policeman gets his man and nails the ex-KGB agent ending his personal terror. The interesting move is that the terror is ended for Wallander with sixty odd pages to go until the story climaxes presumably taking the narrative back to South Africa.

The pace in these pages is impressive. But the problem is that the events are highly charged with emotion because Wallander’s daughter is involved. After her escape the detective actually uses some of his skills to track down the Russian killer but there is far too much jumping around without much Holmes type detection to back it all up.

As you might be able to tell this book has not been quite the experience I expected and following this you are tempted to drink down some Dostoyevsky as some sort of classical remedy.

Last chunk should come tomorrow…

The White Lioness – post V

The humble Swedish policeman gets his man and nails the ex-KGB agent ending his personal terror. The interesting move is that the terror is ended for Wallander with sixty odd pages to go until the story climaxes presumably taking the narrative back to South Africa.

The pace in these pages is impressive. But the problem is that the events are highly charged with emotion because Wallander’s daughter is involved. After her escape the detective actually uses some of his skills to track down the Russian killer but there is far too much jumping around without much Holmes type detection to back it all up.

As you might be able to tell this book has not been quite the experience I expected and following this you are tempted to drink down some Dostoyevsky as some sort of classical remedy.

Last chunk should come tomorrow…

The White Lioness – post IV

This book is something I had planned to get through last year but it has dragged on a bit. It has quickly come down to a simple chase between two men to be the first to kill the other. On the side of good is Kurt Wallander and facing the policeman is the crazed ex-KGB officer who shoots in the back of the head for fun.

The political story line about an assassination of Nelson Mandela continues to rumble on in the background but this is more about the cat and mouse game in Sweden. Maybe it would have been better if it had simply stayed that way and limited the horizon rather than to try and make it some sort of international thriller. The story would have felt more believable and the Swedish landscape given more of a chance to feature.

Still there is enough pace about the writing to make you want to find out about what Wallander does next and by page 400 his daughter has been taken hostage. Maybe his father will start to show more respect for his policeman son if he can solve this crime?

More tomorrow…