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Henning Mankell, Innan frosten (Before the Frost)

Leopard förlag,  2002. ISBN: 917343003X

Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 2003:1

Everyone with an interest in contemporary Swedish literature has been waiting with bated breath for Mankell’s crime novel starring Inspector Wallander’s daughter, Linda. Needless to say, it is good, and will no doubt become a bestseller in several countries. Linda’s father figures more prominently than this reviewer had expected, and Linda doesn’t even become an official member of the Ystad force until not far short of the last page. But as the daughter of her father, she inevitably gets involved in the plot even though she has no business to be there, and she sails forth into dangerous situations when she should really have reported back to the police and kept out of the way while they solved the problems. Readers of the Wallander series would have expected nothing less. Whether or not Mankell manages to give the impression of having penetrated the female psyche is another matter; this reviewer doubts it, but it seems irrelevant to the ordinary reader, as the book is a compelling story and will be difficult to put down. The theme is religious fanaticism. At the very end, Wallander and Co. are informed that something special has just happened in the USA (the date is 11 September, 2001); but the subject matter of this novel is the way in which fanatical Christians can betray the message of genuine Christianity and lapse into evil. One is reminded of events in the USA in recent times when extremist sects choose mass suicide (or murder?) as a way of affirming the message of Christianity. Mankell’s villain first makes his presence felt as a sadist who subjects animals to awful torture – swans are set on fire, a calf is doused in petrol and burnt alive, a pet shop in Ystad is raided, petrol poured over cages and the whole building torched. Wallander’s instinct tells him that this lunatic will soon turn his attention to humans. And he is right, of course. Linda follows her father’s deductions with a mixture of scepticism and awe, and on a domestic level they fight constantly (despite the underlying love and admiration they have for each other). Her private life becomes involved in the criminal proceedings, of course, and she is at the centre of the final shoot-out in a church not far from Ystad. The progression from the animal cruelty, through the bestial murder of an elderly academic lady who has been researching into public footpaths in southern Sweden (her head is cut off, also her hands which are moulded into a position of prayer, while the rest of her body disappears), and the sadistic ritual killing of an American lady who has had an abortion, combine to make it clear that the convictions of the so-called Christian sect behind it all are rather less convincing than most people would be prepared to admit. It is an absorbing plot, and raises questions of importance to civilization in the twenty-first century. But the key aspect of this book for the future of the series is the relationship between Linda and her father. It succeeds in arousing (or maintaining) interest: Mankell addicts will doubtless be straining at the leash to find out how Linda progresses, and if she manages to overcome the dominant role of her father. An added spice is the fact that the “hero” of Mankell’s previous crime novel, Return of the Dancing Master (to be pub-lished in English by Harvill in the UK next year), turns up in this new book. Stefan Lindman, the police officer from southern Sweden who became involved in a crime that took place in the north of Sweden, has been cured of the cancer of the tongue that afflicted him in the previous book, and been transferred to the Ystad force. Not only that, but Linda seems to be falling love with him. Stefan appears to have been singled out for stardom. As always, Mankell beguiles his readers, and makes them yearn for the rest of the series.

Also by Henning Mankell

  • Minnet av en smutsig ängel (Memoirs of a Dirty Angel). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 2012:1.
  • Den orolige mannen (The Troubled Man). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 2009:2.
  • Kinesen (The Chinese). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 2008:2.
  • Tea-Bag. Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 2002:1.
  • Danslärarens återkomst (The Return of the Dancing-Teacher). Reviewed by Birgitta Thompson in SBR 2001:1.
  • Pyramiden (The Pyramid). Reviewed by Birgitta Thompson in SBR 2001:1.
  • Brandvägg (Firewall). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 1999:2.
  • I sand och lera (In Sand and Clay). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 1999:2.
  • Steget efter (One Step Behind). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 1997:2.
  • Den femta kvinnan (The Fifth Woman). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 1997:1.
  • Comédia infantil. Reviewed by Laurie Thompson in SBR 1996:2.

Other reviews by Laurie Thompson

Other reviews in SBR 2003:1

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