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The Return of the Dancing Master Hardcover – February 1, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 148 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mankell, known in this country for his Kurt Wallander police procedurals (Faceless Killers; The Dogs of Riga), sets this intricate, stand-alone tale of murder and intrigue in the vast pine forests of north-central Sweden. Stefan Lindman, a 37-year-old policeman in the city of Boras, sees his life, both professional and personal, as absolutely ordinary. Then he discovers a strange lump on his tongue; it's cancer, and his life changes dramatically. At the doctor's office he picks up a discarded newspaper and reads that former colleague Herbert Molin has been murdered in the northern forests. Because Lindman needs to take his mind off his upcoming cancer treatment, he decides to investigate Molin's death. As the details of the crime come to light, Lindman realizes he never knew the real Molin. The plot involves the secret world of Nazis, both past and present. The prose can be cold and spare, at least in translation: "There was a smell of paint in the house. All the lights were on. Lindman had to bow his head when he entered through the door." The unrelenting Lindman turns out to be an innovative investigator, though those seeking fast-paced action rather than meticulous introspection will be disappointed. Secrets are slowly and methodically teased from the evidence, and by the satisfying end readers with a taste for the unusual will find Lindman, and the mystery he solves, not in the least bit ordinary.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Mankell's Kurt Wallander series is one of the quintessential new European procedurals, pitting a melancholy Swedish detective against a hate-filled contemporary world. Wallander is absent here, but the unremitting horror of modern life continues to take its toll, this time on a different crew of overmatched Swedish cops. A younger version of Wallander, Stefan Lindman faces a host of personal demons, not the least of which is his recent diagnosis of mouth cancer. On leave and unwilling to face up to his illness, he decides to travel to the small village of Sveg, where a retired colleague, Herbert Molin, has been murdered. Helping to investigate the crime, Lindman is shocked to discover that Molin was a lifelong Nazi. Suddenly, Lindman's alternative "therapy" has landed him in the middle of an international ring of neo-Nazis. As always, Mankell tells somber, deeply pessimistic stories about widespread hatred lurking below the multicultural surface, but at the same time, he never fails to find a rich vein of humanity deep within the perpetually furrowed brows of his troubled cops. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; First Edition edition (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848608
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848603
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #762,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I don't know what it is that has suddenly caused this rise in recognition of foreign writers, but it can only be a good thing. Jose Carlos Somoza, Boris Akunin, Karin Fossum, Carlo Lucarelli, and the Dark Wintry King of them all, Henning Mankell, who is increasingly a phenomena. His books fly off the shelves on mainland Europe, he's mobbed in the streets in his native Sweden, in Germany he apparently outsells J.K. Rowling (it's about time someone did), and half-Swedish Ruth Rendell has taken the trouble to read all the novels in their original language, admiring the fascinating procedural detail, which is just one of Mankell's strengths. He never shies from portraying the dull of aspects of routine police-work, but somehow manages to put such a spin on them as to make them interesting. And although The Return of the Dancing Master is a departure from his ever-better Kurt Wallander series - although it may as well not be, for how similar and ominously gloomy the two different protagonists are, it is just as excellent, and probably even better.
Retired policeman Herbert Molin lives a hermetic existence in a lonely house in the middle of a North-Sweden forest. Whatever he's hiding from, he's eluded it for 11 years, occupying himself with his fears, his jigsaw puzzles, and his dancing. Then, one day he is found beaten and lashed, lying dead in the snow on the edge of the wood. In his house, bloody footprints pattern the floor, marking out the steps of his favourite dance, the tango.
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Format: Hardcover
Henning Mankell's "The Return of the Dancing Master" is an outstanding piece of literature written in a manner that parallels its desolate, foreboding and depressing setting central and northern Sweden. Through the eyes of Mankell's main character 37 year old police officer Stefan Lindman we see a profound deliberation of life values and ideologies.

Lindman a bachelor working in the southern Swedish town of Boras has been stunned to learn that the lump on his tongue has been diagnosed as a malignant lesion. Bewildered, he espies a dated newspaper in the hospital cafeteria. He reads that a former colleague Herbert Molin, a retired 76 year old had been found murdered, bullwhipped to death at his isolated cottage in the northern forests of Harjedalen.

Lindman already absent on sick leave is due to start radiation therapy in 3 weeks. He becomes introspective while confronting his believed mortality and decides to escape from that reality and take a trip to Molin's locale to find out what happened.

Based in a hotel in the small town of Sveg, he begins unofficially investigating the circumstances of Molin's death. He soon meets Giuseppe Larsson the local officer investigating the crime, who gives him leeway and eventually allows Lindman to become part of the investigation. Eventually it is discovered that Molin left Sweden during WW2 to join with Hitler's SS troops and always harbored strong Nazi sentiments. It was determined that the murder was retribution for horrid acts committed by Molin during the war.

We also meet the murderer, Aron Silberstein, a German Jew now living in Argentina, who has vowed revenge against Molin. Shockingly during the probe, a retired and elderly neighbor of Molin's is also found murdered, killed by a shotgun blast.
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Format: Hardcover
I've always loved a mystery, but I'm picky. A lot of authors who regularly make the bestseller lists leave me as cold as the corpses they write about (I'm not naming names for fear of casting aspersions on anyone else's taste). My pantheon includes the British classics (Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers) and their heirs (P.D. James and her ilk), but also some less decorous titles, like really good serial-killer yarns. And I'm partial to complex, gritty police procedurals with a European flavor --- like THE RETURN OF THE DANCING MASTER.
Summarizing this novel, it sounds pretty melodramatic: War crimes. Neo-[Nationalsozialist]. A torture-murder. A second murder that looks like an execution. But like all Henning Mankell's mysteries, it is also powerfully matter-of-fact. The book is as much about the daily obsessions of Stefan Lindman --- a police officer with a cancer diagnosis, troubled memories of his father and an ambiguous relationship with an older woman --- as it is about getting shot at in the dark Swedish woods (though there is plenty of action, too). Lindman is a kind of an anti-hero: surprisingly earthy ("Of all the joys that life had to offer, peeing at the side of the road was the best"), relentlessly unglamorous, with the combination of intelligence and persistence that gets crimes solved. In this he is very much like Kurt Wallander, the protagonist of an earlier series of suspense novels by Mankell. They are both smart, rather isolated men struggling to make connections, and their flawed humanity is endearing.
Making connections, to solve a case and/or to save one's soul, is the essence of THE RETURN OF THE DANCING MASTER (if you're wondering about the title, I'll say only that tango steps are an important clue).
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