“Faceless Killers” by Henning Mankell


Book Cover - Faceless Killers


The vicious murder of a man and the beating of his wife at an isolated farmhouse shocks even Kurt Wallander, a seasoned detective. An elderly neighbor discovers the horrific scene and says they were a typical old couple, like he and his wife. They had socialized for forty years, sharing coffee every day. There was no reason to kill the man and leave the wife to die. There was no money to steal. And what enemies could the quiet couple possibly have had?


But, as any mystery reader knows, there’s more to the story and as the investigation unfolds, a completely different view of the pair evolves. Astounding secrets are revealed, but are they enough to cause the murders? When another senseless death occurs, the police investigate possible ties between the cases. Were the killings in either case racially motivated? If mere robbery was involved, why were the deaths so violent?


“Faceless Killers” was first published in Sweden in 1991, at a time when anti-immigrant feeling raged as thousands of people arrived illegally on Swedish shores, sapping government resources. This actual socially and politically charged atmosphere is the backdrop for the first book in the gritty, always realistic, Kurt Wallander series. Wallander has strong opinions about how the immigration issue in Sweden is handled, and constantly battles officials who flatly deny anything is amiss with the obviously faulty system.


Wallander is not a precise, logical detective who slices through red herrings with aplomb. He is disdainful of the press, chases leads that go nowhere, and relies heavily on his co-workers for solutions. He is separated from his wife, estranged from his daughter, has a father approaching senility, drinks too much, and wonders why his personal life changed while he was paying attention to murder.


But, he is dogged in his pursuit of the truth. He needs to find out why these people were killed, no matter whom is upset in the process. He goes over the evidence again and again, searching for what he missed. Wallander might not uncover the truth right away, but make no mistake, he uncovers it.


Masterpiece Theatre, the Public Television show, aired episodes based on the Wallander character, perfectly played by Kenneth Branagh, who won several British awards for both his performance and his producing. But, there are also over thirty widely acclaimed Swedish Wallender movies, many written especially for the screen by Mankell himself.


Henning Mankell divides his time between Sweden and Africa. While the ten book Wallender series is probably his most famous international creation, Mankell has also written twenty other novels and is an award-winning children’s book author. One of the children’s titles, “Secrets in the Fire,” deals with the true story of a Mozambican girl who lost both legs in a land-mine explosion and by all rights, should have died. Published in Sweden in 1995 and translated to English in 2000, it was the first of three in the Sofia series and is still read by children everywhere as an example of incredible courage in the face of insurmountable odds.


In 2008, Mankell was the ninth best-selling author in the world. He has sold over forty million books and has been translated into forty-one different languages.


For more about Henning Mankell, his work, and his fascinating life, please visit www.henningmankell.com




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2 Responses to “Faceless Killers” by Henning Mankell

  • Carmen Amato says:

    I just finished this book and haven't yet written my own review. I love the dreary Swedish countryside, the dogged investigations . . . but Mankell's stilted style is beginning to wear on me.

    • patti says:

      Carmen, thanks for dropping by NBR. Originally written in 1991, the style of writing in “Faceless Killers” is reflective of both the difference in the decades as well as Swedish crimefiction. It all works to underscore the depression that permeates Wallender’s life in the first book.