I have been reading my way, out of order, through Henning Mankell’s Wallander series, as I’ve noted elsewhere. The mysteries are a striking combination of the usual detective tome — crimes are committed and investigated — and social commentary literature, as Wallander again and again struggles to understand what, exactly, is happening to himself and his country. Mankell’s said that the series should be subtitled as “novels of Swedish anxiety,” and they live up to their names. I enjoy every single one, in part because they feel a little weightier than the usual mystery. A cop who hardly ever carries a gun dashes around the countryside, worrying all the time about things other than the mystery at hand; the books make police work look hard, terrifying, troubling, and often very unrewarding — and not in the romantic “tough guy” way that James Patterson’s protagonists “suffer.”
Anyway, my Wallander love has been stymied by a tax-inspired stinginess of late; it took me four weeks to finally (with a 40 percent off coupon in hand) buy Faceless Killers, the first book in the Wallander series, and then I polished it off in only two days.
I loved it, and I was reminded of how much happier I am when there’s a good book waiting for me at the end of a long day (or over a short lunch). It was worth the money, but clearly it’s not something I could do every two days. So I went back to hovering over The Dogs of Riga, the next book in the series, adding it to my virtual cart a few times before bailing at the pay screen, then picking it up at the bookstore and reading the first few pages — “just in case it’s not that good.” It was that good, but my wallet was still that empty, so I put it back. I renewed my hold on it at the public library and settled down to wait.
Today, on a whim, I checked the university library. Each time I’ve looked for a Mankell book before, I’ve found nothing — but, lo and behold, The Dogs of Riga is an exception. Hooray! A flood of new tasty books — that one, plus Mankell’s One Step Behind, and two Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo Martin Beck mysteries — are now in my hands.