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The Man from Beijing (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – March 8, 2011
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
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." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The novel started out promising enough. A mass murder rampage in a sleepy snow covered town in Sweden. But half way through the book the story stalled. In the last quarter of the book, it became very apparent to me the author just made things up on the fly with no forethought or planning. Finally when it was time to end the book, he just chopped the story off with a "Deux Ex Machina".
A few specific criticisms:
1) Horrible dialogs. The conversations between characters, especially towards the end of the book, became extremely painful to read. It is as though the characters lacked all emotions and might as well been robots. I am certain no one in Sweden or China (and I have been to both countries) talks like that. In particular the conversations between the women made me cringe. Could I get an adjective? An emotion?
2) Random asides that serves no purpose. The author included many long asides, for example, the court cases that Birgitta Roslin is working on. But it had no relation whatsoever with the mystery. It did not make me understand the main character better. It got annoying, fast.
3) Motive for the mass murder is not only unconvincing, it is down right stupid. Revenge is for redemption from a personal pain or injury. A revenge for a 160 year old beating that involves a mass murder is not in the realm of possibilities. It doesn't make any sense.
Why not a one star review? The book did have a very promising start. The geopolitics of China's rural/urban problem and China's glowing influence in Africa sounds very much true (abet with some imagination injected). Some of the historical research and Chinese language transliteration (ping yin) is very accurate. So it isn't all bad.
But it is far from good. I would recommend instead reading the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.