From Publishers Weekly
In Mankell's engaging but overly polemical stand-alone crime novel, Louise Cantor, an archeologist working in Greece, returns home to Sweden to discover her grown son, Henrik, lying dead in his own bed. Cantor, who refuses to accept the police theory that Henrik killed himself, launches her own investigation. (The book's title refers to one of the mysteries surrounding the JFK assassination, which had become a bizarre metaphor for the secretive Henrik.) In her quest for answers, Cantor journeys to Australia in search of her estranged husband; to Barcelona, where Henrik had an apartment and a surprisingly large bank account; and to Maputo, Mozambique, where she learns of the devastation wrought by poverty, AIDS and greed. Mankell, author of the wonderful Kurt Wallender series (Faceless Killers
, etc.), is a deft and imaginative plotter and an insightful observer of the human condition, but here his righteous anger over the AIDS crisis in Africa and the exploitative role of the pharmaceutical industry overshadows the mystery solving. (Sept.)
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*Starred Review* Driven by the memory of seeing an African man die of AIDS, Mankell sets aside his Kurt Wallander series to deliver a scathing indictment of how drug companies exploit, and Western nations ignore, that continent's mounting medical horrors. There's nothing metaphorical about the core subject, but Mankell tempers his stridency by wrapping it inside a moving tale of loss. Swedish archaeologist Louise Cantor returns from the Greek dig site she oversees to find her son, Henrik, an apparent suicide. As unreasonable in her grief as any parent who loses a child, Cantor at first refuses to accept even the fact of his death and then sets out to prove he was murdered. The clues are scanthe's found in pajamas when he always slept nude; his computer is missingbut a mother sometimes intuits more than the best police investigator can. As she puzzles over Henrik's seeming obsession with the postautopsy disappearance of JFK's braina harbinger of high-level conspiracies and cover-upsand retraces her son's work with African AIDS patients, Cantor thinks in terms of reassembling pottery shards. But there may be vase breakers afoot willing to do anything to keep her from unearthing the truth. Meanwhile, a question keeps arising: Why is it that "we know all about how Africans die, but hardly anything about how they live?" This is a bracing, worthwhile read. Sennett, Frank