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Sidetracked Paperback – May 13, 2003
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“Presents Mankell at his best…if you haven’t bought Sidetracked, do so ASAP” --Los Angeles Times Book Review
“[I]t is Wallander’s voice . . . that captures us.” --New York Times Book Review
“Mankell joins the worthy ranks of such past masters as Georges Simenon [and] Nicholas Freeling.” --The Wall Street Journal
“Full of emotion yet cleanly written, apparently straightforward yet fraught with intriguing revelations, Mankell’s latest mystery is strongly recommended.” --Library Journal
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Swedish
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One of the mysteries, the smaller one, the one that takes up less police and story time, is the apparent suicide of a young Jamaican girl who showed up in Sweden for unknown reasons, seemed to be afraid of something, went out to a strange field, apparently simply because it was there, poured gasoline in a circle around her and on her, and when Wallander began to approach her, she ignited herself and burned to death. Wallander and his team try to find out why she apparently wanted to commit suicide and why she did it the way she did, for there is just about no more hurtful way to die than to be burned to death. This is why Joan of Arc was burned and why witched were burned, to give them as much pain as possible.
The other mystery is what seem to be bizarre serial killings. We are told that the murderer identifies with Herbert Hoover of the American FBI and with the Indian Chief Geronimo, and that he paints his face when he goes out to kill. We are also told that he is seeking revenge for his sister. This is about all we know at the onset of the novel, but the police do not know this. What they do know is that the murders are carefully planned, an ax or hatchet is used, and the victims are scalped. They try to find a connection between the victims but do not find it and they try to delve into the psychology of the murderer but do not see it.
This is an amazing thriller and one of the best I've read of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series yet. It's suspenseful, creepy and although whodunnit might be figured out, it's the why that isn't always easy.
The book starts out when Kurt Wallander is called to an old farmhouse by an elderly man who complains of a girl out in his rape fields just hanging around and as many times as he has asked her to leave, she won't. When Wallander sees her he tries to approach the very young woman only to have her douse herself with gasoline and set herself on fire. Wallander and the farmer are horrified, and throughout the rest of the book Wallander is haunted by the scene of this woman burning to death. The question is who is she and why did she kill herself in such an awful way.
If that isn't enough, the very next day Wallander gets a call and goes to the beach where the body of Sweden's former Minister of Justice lies axed to death and scalped. When another ax murder and scalping takes place, the police know they have a dangerous serial killer on the loose. Wallander and the Ystad police will have their hands full in order to find out who is committing these crimes and also why the young woman killed herself.
This book is fast-paced and does have its moments of violence, but I've read much grislier in other books. I love what the author has done with the relationships with Wallander and his daughter, Linda, his father, and Linda and her grandfather. Although Kurt's father remains a source of anxiety for him, the older man is somewhat of a comic relief with his paintings and his one-liners. The love that Wallander has for his daughter and also for his father, as irritating as he can be, is a very nice part of this book. The ending is worth the entire rest of the book. I really loved this one and couldn't stop reading. I think I finished it in less than twenty-four hours.
The reader follows along as Kurt Wallander and his team comprising his fellow detectives and the public prosecutor follows leads and draw conclusions then shift directions as new facts arise. Hence, the title, Sidetracked. Kurt gets frustrated, loses his temper, and tries to balance his chaotic personal situations
The author also proves the reader with insight into the mind and motivations of the killer.
Even though this novel stands alone, I am glad I am reading the Kurt Wallander series in order as there are continuing themselves involving Wallander's personality.
The story actually begins when Wallender is called out to a farmers field where a young girl is seen just "standing". Wallender tries to talk to her - but as he approaches her she sets herself on fire. Wallender is traumatized by seeing this
Then Wallender is called to the scene of a crime where an important man is killed with an ax to the back - and he is scalped. There are very few clues as to who murdered him. He is found on the beach.
Then another murder occurs - with an ax - and a scalping.
Wallender begins to question the role of the police officer in todays more violent society - as he searches for answers.
I am now going to order the next 5 books in the Wallender series