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One Step Behind: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (7) Paperback – January 14, 2003

Book 7 of 10 in the Kurt Wallander Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his fifth U.S. appearance in this taut, intricately plotted series (The Fifth Woman, etc.), Swedish detective Kurt Wallander pursues a long, complex case sure to please those who like weighty police procedurals. Six weeks after three college students are murdered during a Midsummer's Eve party, their bodies hidden to prevent discovery, Wallander's secretive colleague Svedberg is found at home with half his head blown off. Wallander's persistent, occasionally brilliant, investigation points to a connection between Svedberg and the disappearance of the three young people. Soon after their bodies surface, a fourth friend, who was too sick to attend the party, is killed. More murders follow, with the exhausted, understaffed detectives just too late each time to prevent the next crime. Eventually the reader meets the killer, whose bizarre motive and methods the author gradually reveals. The dyspeptic Wallander, whose frazzled personal life is further impaired by the diabetes he ignores, works himself to exhaustion, sidestepping official procedure and making intuitive leaps to find the cold-blooded killer. The glum tone of the book, despite the setting during a warm and luxuriant late summer, reflects a crumbling Swedish society: government corruption is widespread; honest cops are disillusioned by abuses in high officialdom; rifts among social classes and between Swedes and recent immigrants abound. Mankell's writing is deadpan and stark, the plotting meticulous and exacting. (Feb. 28)Forecast: Though a bestseller in Europe with both film and TV adaptations to his credit, Mankell has so far failed to take off here. Alas, Scandinavian dreariness just doesn't seem to have broad appeal to American readers.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Devotees of Inspector Kurt Wallander can only bemoan the fact that this is just the fifth (out of nine books) in this Swedish mystery series to be published in the United States. Here, Wallander confronts perhaps his most horrific case, when the murder of a trusted colleague, Svedberg, and the disappearance of three young people begin to merge. Battling his own fatigue and illness, Wallander assiduously strips away layer after layer, dredging up fragments of conversations and crime-scene clues that lead him closer and closer to the killer, who plays him cleverly and remains one step ahead until the brutal end. Mankell focuses less on Wallander's personal relationships and on what he sees as the deterioration of Swedish quality of life than in the previous books, but nevertheless the subtext is there. Essential for public libraries, though newcomers may want to start earlier in the series (with The White Lioness or Sidetracked). Francine Fialkoff, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400031516
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400031511
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Fully developed characters.
Carla Greenberg
Well written and interesting, this book keeps you glued to the pages with excitement.
Amazon Customer
The book has a more convincing ending in my opinion.
Eric A. Foster

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Linda Oskam on May 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
On Midsummer night (a big celebration in Sweden) 3 young adults are shot to death in cold blood in a nature reserve in South Sweden. The killer is extremely careful: he removes all traces, including the bodies, and makes the parents belief that their children have gone on an extended summer holiday to Europe. But something is not right and this feeling becomes very urgent when one of Inspector Kurt Wallander's colleagues is found in his apartment with his face blown to pieces. Time for Wallander and his team to start an investigation for a killer that always seems to be one step ahead of the team. Four more people die before the team has an idea who the killer might be, and even when the investigation turns into a manhunt, they need all their considerable skills to bring this case to a good end. And in all this mess Wallander also finds out that he is a diabetic and has to change his lifestyle: not an easy option when you are trying to catch one of the most gruesome serial killers that Sweden has ever seen...

Once you are reading this book you cannot stop. The book seems to be slow-paced, but that is only at the surface, below that there are numerous developments that keep the reader interested. A real page turner.
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63 of 69 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the best in Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series to date. While five of his mysteries have been translated, it is not necessary to read them in order. But anyone who begins with "One Step Behind" will surely want to double back to the previous four volumes. (Although only a real die-hard fan will enjoy "The White Lioness.")
Mankell is the best mystery writer writing today. Here's why:
1. The mystery itself is riveting, and the book revolves around that plot. We solve the crime with the team at the Ystad police station. There are no weird or eccentrically-contrived characters as in so many mysteries today. The writing is clean and controlled.
2. Every minor character, every cameo, is a perfect little portrait. There are no "flat" characters.
3. This is not the Sweden of clogs and girls with long blonde braids. This is a society in disintegration where the criminal element threatens to take over. Wallander's comments on the state of Swedish society today are right on target.
4. In sum, we care about Wallander and the characters who revolve around him in the police station and elsewhere. These people are real. They are our neighbors and friends-- people we know in the U.S. or wherever we live.
For a suspenseful mystery, no one is writing this well today. I am a 40-something woman. Today my friend, an 80-something man, said to me: I can never thank you enough for recommending "One Step Behind." I can't put it down!
That says it all.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Richard on February 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is my fourth Kurt Wallender mystery. I am now reading my fifth and last of Mankell's translated works: White Lioness. The story is full of twists and turns as you would normally expect of a well crafted mystery novel. What comes as a surprise in this as well as the other of Mankell's Wallender mysteries is the character development of Mankell's chief protagonist: Kurt Wallender. It is a real treat to read an effective combination of police procedural and character development. Mankell pays attention not only to the Wallender character but he also attends to the development of the other characters who appear in the books. In this book, there is a believable and particularly evil villain who challenges your imagination. The only part of the book that I did not like, had to do with the introduction of a new character, the prosecuting attorney, who distracts from the intent of the story. Mankell also captures the wonderful sensitivity of Sweden and often highlights those things about Swedish people which make them so people-centered. I recommend this book to you and look forward to the translation of more of them.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Literary Omnivore on December 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
I confess that I hadn't read any of Henning Mankell's books; I bought this one after seeing several Kurt Wallander mysteries on television. I am happy to report that the books (at least, this one) are even better than the television shows. This is a gripping mystery that deals with a serial killer. What I liked most here wasn't really the plot, though, but rather Mankell's unique style of writing. The best way I can think of to describe it is that he is very gentle with his characters. He seems to see them from a vantage of great compassion, and he portrays their struggles--with their work, their health, their relationships, and their loneliness, which is a pervasive and recurring theme in the book--with a careful kindness. The crime gets solved, of course, but Mankell is more realistic than most writers concerning the very real damage people would suffer in such a scenario. His protagonist is an everyman, not a superhero. The book is long at 440 pages and unfolds at a stately pace, yet it seldom drags. Gore is kept to a minimum for the subject matter. If you like police stories with strong character portrayals, you'll like this.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on March 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book was published in 1997 in Sweden as Steget Efter. It was the seventh book published in the series in Sweden, although according to the internal chronology of the series it is actually the eighth. It is Mankell's fifth book to appear in an English translation. Confused yet? Me too.

I have no idea why they are not translating and publishing the books in order, but I guess that I am glad that they are publishing them at all. Mankell is a wonderful writer, something that comes through even in translation. It is a real treat to be able to read these books.

I am going to go out on a limb for a moment and argue that the best detective novels are actually an examination of a changing society (or its effect on an individual). This was true of the Golden Age and I believe that it is true of the better detective writers working today. I was curious how Mankell would handle that most American of criminals, the serial killer. Too often, contemporary serial killer novels are not an exploration of anything except titillation, sadism, and gore.

I need not have bothered to worry. The serial killer, in Wallander's world, is the intrusion of a very different kind of crime in the still-innocent Swedish landscape. The detectives are confronted with the spectre of senselessness and the uselessness of some of their traditional notions of crime and detection.

One Step Behind is not my favorite Mankell, to be honest. However, it might well be a good introduction to unfamiliar American readers as the theme is more familiar than in some of the other books which have a focus on more post-colonial issues.

You are probably guessing that this book is probably not for you if you are more of a fan of Karin Slaughter or Val McDermid shock and horror.
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