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Faceless Killers Mass Market Paperback – January 25, 2011

454 customer reviews
Book 1 of 10 in the Kurt Wallander Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

If you remember with pleasure those dark and gloomy Martin Beck mysteries by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, you'll be glad to plunge into the first of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallender mysteries to appear in English. Wallender's personal life can occasionally seem more depressing than even a provincial Swedish detective should be asked to bear, but his investigative skills are strictly first rate. And Mankell's story of the brutal murder of an elderly farm couple uncovers an unusual aspect of life in modern Sweden--a streak of fear and prejudice against the many newcomers from Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe who have sought asylum there. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In his first appearance in English, Swedish bestselling author Mankell combines thriller-quality entertainment with a depiction of anti-foreigner prejudice in Sweden, painted here as a very chilly place indeed. Since his wife walked out on him, Kurt Wallender, a middle-aged cop in the small town of Lenarp, has drowned his sorrows in opera and far too much liquor. Such consolations can't help him absorb the scene at the Lovgren farm, where elderly Johannes Lovgren has been brutally beaten and stabbed to death and where his wife, Maria, is found barely alive with a noose around her neck. Rydberg, a police force old-timer, says the noose's unusual knot and the word foreigner, which Maria uttered before she died, are important. Wallender puts those clues on the back burner when he learns that Johannes, ostensibly a simple farmer, had a secret life involving wealth and connections unknown to his wife. However, a leak to the press complicates the investigation by arousing anti-immigrant feelings, some of which are expressed in anonymous threats. Mankell is clearly a skilled writer, and his portrait of Wallender (who periodically slides beneath respectability) is effective. But he provides essential information only at the last minute, which makes the solution feel more like an appendix than a conclusion. Also, American readers may find odd Mankell's bundling of his upright anti-racism message with broad notions of what constitutes acceptable social control.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (January 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307742857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307742858
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (454 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander mysteries are global bestsellers and have been adapted for television as a BAFTA Award-winning BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh. Mankell was awarded the Crime Writers' Association's Macallan Gold Dagger and the German Tolerance Prize, among many others. He divides his time between Sweden and Mozambique.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

164 of 166 people found the following review helpful By Craig Larson VINE VOICE on March 18, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Now this was a find. Recently, I was reading book reviews in either _Booklist_ or _Library Journal_ and came across a rave for the latest Mankell translation, _One Step Behind_. When my next opportunity to order a few books came around, I put several Mankell titles on the list and _Faceless Killers_ is the first in his Kurt Wallander series. Mankell is a Swedish author and his books are translations and have been hailed as the first series to truly live up to the standards set by authors Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo and their Martin Beck mysteries. I can't comment on that, never having read a Martin Beck, but I sure enjoyed this book.

As the story opens, an elderly farmer discovers that his neighbors, also elderly, have been attacked. The husband has been gruesomely tortured and killed and his wife left for dead. Before she dies in the hospital, her last word is "foreign." With anti-immigrant sentiment running high already, the last thing the police need is for this to slip out to the media, but someone in the department leaks the information and suddenly refugee camps in the area are being firebombed. When a Somali refugee is killed, seemingly at random, Wallander and his men have two difficult cases to untangle.

This was a very strong mystery, with a great central character and careful attention to settings. Wallander is cut from the same cloth as John Rebus and Alan Banks. He's struggling with loneliness after his wife has unexpectedly left him and his close ties with his daughter have been severed. He has to deal with an aging, possibly senile, father and his attraction to the new female district attorney who is filling in on an interim basis, and who happens to be married.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo invented the modern Swedish police procedural with their ten-book Martin Beck series, which ended in the late 1970s. Mankell picks up where they left off, introducing a new weary policeman with this first in the Kurt Wallender series, which was originally published in 1991. Just as the Martin Beck series was a lens for the authors' liberal view of a changing Swedish society, Mankell uses the crime novel as a way of addressing the dilemmas of modern Sweden. In this first book, an elderly couple in the southern coastal town of Ystad are brutally tortured and murdered, and the only clue is the word "foreigners." As there are a number of refugee camps in the nearby countryside, the issue of immigration and asylum becomes central to the story.

With the chief out of town, Wallender spearheads the investigation into the apparently motiveless crime, while at the same time struggling to cope with his disintegrating personal life. His wife has just left him, his teenage daughter is estranged from him, and his aging father gives new meaning to the word cantankerous. It doesn't help that Wallender eats junk food for meals and drinks himself to sleep. Soon a firebombing of a refugee camp increases the pressure for a quick solution, and then a Somali is shotgunned to death, making for even more problems. Despite the best efforts of Wallender's team, they just can't seem to get anywhere as the months drag on. The breakthrough that leads to the solution seems to come out of nowhere, but it works nonetheless.

The story is written in prose that can perhaps best be described as methodical, and when combined with the bleak weather, it ably captures the reserved nature of Scandinavia. The immigration issue is handled fairly well and raises difficult questions.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Henning Mankell was a new writer to me, but having seen comparisons of his genre fiction with that of Ian Rankin I tried this novel.
This is the first in Mankell's Inspector Wallander series. Set in rural Sweden it is a police procedural. The opening chapters of the novel are gripping. It begins with a vicious murder to which Wallander is called. There are few clues, other than the last word of the second murder victim, "Foreigners". When news of this leaks out Wallander is drawn into a series of racially motivated incidents, and investigations around camps holding asylum seekers.
The tension is built up well in the first half of the novel, and the investigation of the murder, and the racial incidents, maintains high interest. The second half of the novel is more slackly paced, the denouement slightly disappointing.
Wallander is a fascinating character, and while the novel is third person narrative, so much is written from Wallander's perspective that the novel might as well be in the first person. Wallander is not the most likeable of characters. He has a strained relationship with his father and daughter, has recently separated, and falls into a number of stereotypes as the "loner" cop. Wallander's flaws, his racism (his observations on asylum seekers, for example), and his misogyny, for example, create a rounded well-drawn character. You may not like Wallander but so crafted is the character that his motivation is comprehensible.
However, the depth given to Wallander means that supporting characters suffer. Wallander's father - never satisfied, slightly ill-tempered, and suffering from a serious illness - has potential to be an interesting character, but seems instead to act as a checkbox to note Wallander's famly troubles.
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