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Book reviews arrive for The Man Who Smiled
Posted 2005-10-26
Harvill Press edition of Henning Mankell's The Man Who SmiledCritics have finished reading their copies of Henning Mankell's fourth entry in the Kurt Wallander series, The Man Who Smiled.

Three reviews have been published recently, beginning with Marcel Berlins' short but reassuring review in The Times:

  I have had my reservations about the last few Henning Mankell novels, so it was with pleasurable anticipation that I noticed that The Man Who Smiled  had originally been published in 1994, but the UK rights had been unavailable -- until now, when it is published in its first English translation (by Laurie Thompson). My faith in the excellence of Mankell's earlier works was not misplaced. The Man who Smiled is one of his best.  

Next, in his review for the Independent, Paul Binding writes:

  The Man Who Smiled has in its art much in common with other Mankell novels. Its opening chapter gives readers a privileged but partial view of the seminal event. We move over to Wallander at a point before his professional (and personal) enmeshment in the affair. This is, here as elsewhere, just a bit of a cheat, since we are given information that the methodology of the novel proper - scrupulously following both police procedure and Wallander's arduous cerebrations - would otherwise block. Yet without such knowledge our emotional engagement would be the less, as would our admiration for Wallander's deductions.  
 
  Wallander and his colleagues recognise that their country has changed, yet in their working lives they are still animated by that belief in community which was a cornerstone of Sweden's folkhem. It is this passion for a fair society, sometimes proudly acknowledged, sometimes borne as a private burden, which gives all of Mankell's novels their depth. The last scenes of The Man Who Smiled constitute a vivid vindication of it.  

And finally, Ian Thomson writing for the Guardian, weighs in with:

  Wallander's anger at the state of his country lends this book an old-fashioned moral force and sense of disquiet. 'What used to be considered a crime 10 years ago is now judged a non-crime', the detective observes morosely.  
 
  In spite of its occasional black humour, The Man Who Smiled is haunted by the murder in 1986 of Sweden's prime minister, Olof Palme. The failure of the authorities to find Palme's killer created, Mankell says, a 'dangerous scepticism' about the Swedish justice system and state institutions. Most of the guilty characters are brought to book, but 'the dishonesty that seems to be common nowadays in society' will, one suspects, win out. Wallander, a sternly pensive slogger who eats junk food, is one of the most credible creations in contemporary crime fiction, and The Man Who Smiled is vintage Nordic storytelling.  

Continue to the Guardian web site for the full review, entitled Good Cop, Sad Cop.

Thanks to everyone who sent in links to these reviews.