Monday, March 3, 2014

The Troubled ManThe Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The Troubled Man" is Henning Mankell's tenth and last novel in the Kurt Wallander series. I rate it among the two or three best of the nine books in the series that I have read. Not only because of its tremendous "mystery value", but also for excellent observations of psychological torment of old age.

The Prologue takes place in the fall of 1982, when Warsaw Pact submarines apparently violate Swedish territorial waters. The actual plot of the novel takes place in 2008. Wallander's daughter, living with her boyfriend, gives birth to a child. The boyfriend's father, a high-rank Swedish Navy officer, disappears. Wallander pursues a semi-private investigation of the disappearance. The case soon becomes much, much more complex, and its roots reach back to the Cold War in Europe.

I find the plot enthralling and the mystery fascinating. The mystery is of the best kind: not just a silly whodunit, but rather an involved study of what really lay behind it all, what events from the past were the causes of the current happenings. The denouement, although not entirely plausible, is well constructed. Yet, I do not think the Epilogue is much needed. The closeness of the End is quite clear.

I am about Mr. Mankell's age so I can testify to having much the same thoughts and feelings about life as Kurt Wallander in this novel. Struggles of life in decline, in the terrifying shadow of the approaching end, are portrayed with great acuity. I love Mr. Mankell's use of the famous saying by Heraclitus "You could not step twice into the same river". When we are at the prime of our lives, the saying describes nothing more than irreversibility of time. For the older crowd though, it means that the past is gone and that's all you have. So much for the "golden years" optimistic bullshit. Welcome to the darkness.

Four stars.

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