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The Man Who Smiled (Kurt Wallander Series) Paperback – September 25, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 225 customer reviews
Book 4 of 10 in the Kurt Wallander Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. First published in Sweden in 1994, Mankell's terrific fourth Kurt Wallender mystery opens with the kind of startling image typical of this internationally bestselling series (Firewall, etc.): a lawyer, driving home through the fog, stops after he sees "a human-sized effigy" propped on a chair in the middle of a deserted highway. Gustaf Torstensson gets out of the car to investigate, is hit from behind and was "dead before his body hit the damp asphalt." The police accept the assailant's claim that it was an accident, but when Torstensson's son, Sten, is shot dead just two weeks later, the brooding Wallender, who's on sick leave and vowing to retire from the Ystad police force, decides to pursue the killer and resume his career. The chief suspect—a powerful, globe-trotting Swedish businessman who's the smiling man of the title—leads Wallender on an exquisitely plotted search for motive and evidence. Dark and moody, this is crime fiction of the highest order. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Swedish crime writer Mankell has taken U.S. publishing by storm over the last decade, launching a genre-altering invasion of his fellow Scandinavian mystery authors and (with other Europeans such as John Harvey and Andrea Camilleri) reinterpreting the notion of the hard-boiled hero. No longer the strong, silent, stand-up guy of American fiction, the new European hero, led by Mankell's Kurt Wallander, faces the horrors of the modern world with a sagging spirit, nearly overwhelmed. Lately, though, Mankell has rested Wallander, focusing instead on other cops in and around Ystad, Sweden, including Wallander's daughter, Linda, the star of Before the Frost (2005). Now the series returns to Wallander but backtracks in time. The Man Who Smiled, written in 1994, was the fourth in the series but is only now appearing in the U.S. It finds Wallander on the verge of quitting the Ystad police force; then a friend who had asked for his help is killed, and the would-be retiree is compelled to go back to work. The case that unfolds, involving a the head of a multinational corporation who traffics in the selling of human organs, opens yet another window on the unimaginable horrors of modern life, but this time Wallander responds with new resolve. Devotees of the series will be thrilled to pick up this missing chapter in the ongoing saga, but it is a bit disconcerting to keep the chronology straight. Still, any new Wallander novel--in whatever order--constitutes a major event in crime fiction. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Kurt Wallander Series
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (September 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400095832
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400095834
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mariusz Ozminkowski on September 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Other reviewers said all that had to be said. I have one suggestion to readers that are new to Kurt Wallander Mystery Novels. Read them in sequence. Unfortunately, they were translated to English out of order. Here is the correct order: 1. Faceless Killers (1991 2. The Dogs of Riga (1992) 3. The White Lioness 1993 4. The Man Who Smiled 1994 5. Sidetracked 1995 6. The Fifth Woman 1996 7. One Step Behind (1997 8. Firewall (1998 9. Before the Frost (2002) and The Troubled Man (2009), the last case of Wallander. Also, consider another 'non-Wallander' mystery: The Return of the Dancing Master (2000) and The Man From Beijing (2010). I hope I didn't miss anything...
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Format: Hardcover
My tables,--meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain:
At least I 'm sure it may be so in Denmark." Hamlet.

And I'm sure, after reading Henning Mankell's "The Man Who Smiled", that it may be so in Sweden as well.

"The Man Who Smiled" is the fourth book in the popular Inspector Kurt Wallander mystery series. An aging attorney has been found dead on a desolate strip of road. The local police think it is an accident brought about by the dense fog that surrounded the area that night. The man's son, also an attorney, seeks out is friend Kurt Wallander to ask for help. He thinks his father has been murdered. Wallander isn't really interested. He'd killed a man in the line of duty and has been on leave ever since. He has no taste for police work, is loaded up with antidepressants and drinks to excess. But when his friend is found murdered, the same guilt that drove Wallander away from police work compels him to return to help solve the murder of the friend and what may be the murder of the friend's father.

As Wallander returns to work he finds himself thinking that one of Sweden's richest men may have some part in the murders. He is very rich and very powerful. So powerful that he can afford to keep a smile affixed to his permanently suntanned face. It is a smile of condescension and smugness. It is a smile that says "I am untouchable." Wallander battles to put his life back together while he struggles to put together the pieces of a very complex crime puzzle.

Mankell's Kurt Wallander series is often compared to the Martin Beck detective mysteries authored by the husband and wife team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. Wallander, like Beck, is a police detective in Sweden.
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Format: Paperback
Too late did I learn that the translator of this book is not the same as the translator of "One Step Behind." But as I was reading, I noticed a distinct difference in tone between then two novels. There were several instances in which the translation came up with idiomatic usage, such as the expression "fishy" that seemed out of place and jarring. Elsewhere, the novel suffered from an overall flatness that was strikingly different from other Mankell novels.

But there were other problems, as noted by some of the other reviewers. The lead up to the conclusion was too forced and strained credulity. The fact that Wallander would remain inside the mansion without calling for backup at any point did not make sense, likewise his partner's delay in calling for help herself. Also, the idea of a supremely wealthy man would utilize a land mine to murder a potentially troublesome witness seemed quite ludicrous to me. The bad guy, Harderberg, was also a big disppointment: extremely two dimensional and flat. The attempt to make him seem aloof by affixing a permanent smile to his face only added to the sense that he was more pastiche that person. It was as though Mankell had taken the attributes of several other characters and decided to utilize the most superficial of each. His language was stilted and pure cliche. This could also have been a result of the not so good translation.

For all of this, I read the novel to the end. Mankell is great at creating a dark and drizzly world where his characters try and figure out who they are, which at the same time trying to solve a crime. Wallander is a great character, flawed and human and consistent from one novel the the next.
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Format: Hardcover
As I have recently learned, there is a title for this type of book, "Swedish Noir". There are those who do not like this type of brooding, intense, emotionally wrenching story, but there are a lot of folks who do, and not just among Swedes. I have been following many of Mankell's book as well as other authors in the Scandianvian mystry genre, and have tried to read them in sequence. This one escaped me so it was taking place early in the author's series, but basically that does not matter, it is a terrific, detailed, intense story. Kurt Wallender is real and flawed and yet manages to be bigger than life despite it all. I have enjoyed all of Mankell's books that I have read, and this one ranks among the best of that bunch. A fine read.
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Format: Hardcover
Just as a point of trivia but in Europe and in Sweden, detective Kurt Wallander's home, the spelling is sometimes Wallender or Wallander. One encounters both spellings on amazon.

I thank fellow reviewer Leonard Fleisig for bringing this author to my attention. The writing is simply superb, and I am very interested in reading more books by the same author.

As done by Len, I gave the book 4 stars. I thought that "The Man Who Smiled" was a good book until near the end. Up to that point I thought that Mankell was doing a great job with the novel. The novel reminded me a bit of the Peter Robinson Inspector Banks series, but here the policeman is more involved; actually, he becomes too involved and that is what slightly spoils the book.

The book opens with a map of southern Sweden, and a second map of the town of Ystad. The latter is the primary setting, although the crimes are spread around the southern part of Sweden in this novel. The police station is located in Ystad, near the most southerly part of Sweden, south and east of Malmo, and on the Baltic. Malmo itself is just 10 km across water from Copenhagen. Part of the tale takes place in Denmark.

I will not give away the plot and the essential plot elements are outlined by the publisher: a police inspector on a stress leave is drawn back to work by the murder of a friend. The policeman, Kurt Wallender, takes a personal interest in the death of two lawyers, one who he knew professionally, and who had approached him about a case a week before his death.

This is a great and a fast read that I was able to read with a great deal of enjoyment in less than a day.
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