Thursday, April 16, 2020

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Faceless Killers was Henning Mankell’s first Detective Kurt Wallander novel and just recently it became my first reading experience with the author.

A few years ago, I enjoyed a couple of the Kurt Wallander TV movies starring Kenneth Branagh as the Swedish police detective. But the novel remained in my TBR pile for a long time. That was a mistake, because Faceless Killers is a terrific book. Not only is it an intriguing mystery and a nice character study, but also a comment on a changing world.

Fortyish Wallendar, confronted with the horrific murder of an elderly farmer and his wife, wonders what is happening to his country when this level of violence reaches even the calm, remote rural areas of southern Sweden.

When it leaks that the suspect may be a refuge living in one of the local migrant camps, a hate group threatens to retaliate against the immigrants. Before the killer can be caught, refuges are assaulted and killed.

There is a strange lack of urgency on the part of the police. Perhaps Mankell wrote it that way to show a police force not used to handling this kind of case or the increasing frequency of cases like it.

Kurt Wallander is all too human. He is divorced and out of touch with his adult daughter. The relative he is closest to is his nasty, overbearing father who is in the early stages of dementia.

Makell’s book is at its best when it follows the dogged efforts of Wallander to find the killer. Where it falters is in a couple of action passages. The author goes too far making the book feel like a Hollywood movie. But Mankell reins it all in and sets it back on track.

By my count, Henning Mankell (1940-2015) wrote nine novels, one novella and several short stories featuring Wallander.

Faceless Killers was nicely translated by Steven T. Murray and is a book I should not have waited so long to read.

(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)

(And please check out my crime novel, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)


  1. Though I have a few books on the shelves, I am not fond of Nordic Noir. Still I am very glad you enjoyed this as this has made you start reviewing once again. Have missed your posts.

  2. I have this one and a few of the others sat on the TBR pile. I ought to do something about that and maybe see if I can cross paths with the films.