After killing a man in the line of duty, Kurt Wallander resolves to quit the Ystad police. However, a bizarre case gets under his skin.
A lawyer driving home at night stops to investigate an effigy sitting in a chair in the middle of the highway. The lawyer is hit over the head and dies. Within a week the lawyer’s son is also killed. These deeply puzzling mysteries compel Wallander to remain on the force. The prime suspect is a powerful corporate mogul with a gleaming smile that Wallander believes hides the evil glee of a killer. Joined by Ann-Britt Hoglund, Wallander begins to uncover the truth, but the same merciless individuals responsible for the murders are now closing in on him.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. First published in Sweden in 1994, Mankell's terrific fourth Kurt Wallender mystery opens with the kind of startling image typical of this internationally bestselling series (Firewall, etc.): a lawyer, driving home through the fog, stops after he sees "a human-sized effigy" propped on a chair in the middle of a deserted highway. Gustaf Torstensson gets out of the car to investigate, is hit from behind and was "dead before his body hit the damp asphalt." The police accept the assailant's claim that it was an accident, but when Torstensson's son, Sten, is shot dead just two weeks later, the brooding Wallender, who's on sick leave and vowing to retire from the Ystad police force, decides to pursue the killer and resume his career. The chief suspect—a powerful, globe-trotting Swedish businessman who's the smiling man of the title—leads Wallender on an exquisitely plotted search for motive and evidence. Dark and moody, this is crime fiction of the highest order. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Swedish crime writer Mankell has taken U.S. publishing by storm over the last decade, launching a genre-altering invasion of his fellow Scandinavian mystery authors and (with other Europeans such as John Harvey and Andrea Camilleri) reinterpreting the notion of the hard-boiled hero. No longer the strong, silent, stand-up guy of American fiction, the new European hero, led by Mankell's Kurt Wallander, faces the horrors of the modern world with a sagging spirit, nearly overwhelmed. Lately, though, Mankell has rested Wallander, focusing instead on other cops in and around Ystad, Sweden, including Wallander's daughter, Linda, the star of Before the Frost (2005). Now the series returns to Wallander but backtracks in time. The Man Who Smiled, written in 1994, was the fourth in the series but is only now appearing in the U.S. It finds Wallander on the verge of quitting the Ystad police force; then a friend who had asked for his help is killed, and the would-be retiree is compelled to go back to work. The case that unfolds, involving a the head of a multinational corporation who traffics in the selling of human organs, opens yet another window on the unimaginable horrors of modern life, but this time Wallander responds with new resolve. Devotees of the series will be thrilled to pick up this missing chapter in the ongoing saga, but it is a bit disconcerting to keep the chronology straight. Still, any new Wallander novel--in whatever order--constitutes a major event in crime fiction. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved