From Publishers Weekly
A massacre in the remote Swedish village of Hesjövallen propels this complex, if diffuse, stand-alone thriller from Mankell (The Pyramid
). Judge Birgitta Roslin, whose mother grew up in the village, comes across diaries from the house of one of the 19 mostly elderly victims kept by Jan Andrén, an immigrant ancestor of Roslin's. The diaries cover Andrén's time as a foreman on the building of the transcontinental railroad in the United States. An extended flashback charts the journey of a railroad worker, San, who was kidnapped in China and shipped to America in 1863. After finding evidence linking a mysterious Chinese man to the Hesjövallen murders, Roslin travels to Beijing, suspecting that the motive for the horrific crime is rooted in the past. While each section, ranging in setting from the bleak frozen landscape of northern Sweden to modern-day China bursting onto the global playing field, compels, the parts don't add up to a fully satisfying whole. Author tour. (Feb.)
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Critics generally agree that Mankell's stand-alone thriller--a combination of police procedural and geopolitical novel--lives up to the best of the Kurt Wallander series. Piercing into its inquiries into corruption, revenge, as well as imperialism, Communism, racism, and other evil "isms," The Man from Beijing reaches for deeper truths about humanity and largely succeeds. Some reviewers identified a few missteps, with the Spectator criticizing the wandering narrative and polemical tone. But in the end, the novel just may, as the Los Angeles Times noted, "cement Mankell's reputation as Sweden's greatest living mystery writer."