by Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell, the popular Swedish mystery novelist, writes two kinds of books: novels with a strong social conscience, and novels worth reading. Sad to say, The White Lioness falls into the former category. Mankell has created a wonderful protagonist in Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander, a depressive, middle-aged cop from tiny Ystad, Sweden. It’s a joy to follow this miserable man as he solves crimes in and around his seaside village. We care not only about whatever crime Wallander’s trying to solve, but also about his relationships with a senile father, a maturing daughter, and his sometimes unreliable police colleagues.
But this winning setup isn’t always enough for Mankell, who in some of his books turns Wallander into a globetrotting James Bond (The Dogs of Riga), and in others like this one, puts the reader to sleep with preachy moralizing, in Lioness about South Africa circa 1993. Mankell is so intent on teaching us all lessons that the actual mystery suffers. And once the story loses allure, every little plot twist becomes less and less believable. My advice to the first-time Mankell reader: Stick to pure Wallander in books like Faceless Killers or Sidetracked.
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