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Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell

Vintage, 176 pages, $14.95

So you thought you had seen the last of Kurt Wallander, Henning Mankell’s Swedish police detective. Actually, you have. “The Troubled Man” (c2009) was the last book Mankell wrote in the Wallander series. “An Event in Autumn” was first published in Dutch in 2004, following the penultimate book, “Firewall.” "Event" was published in Swedish last year and in English this year, and the story’s timeline precedes “The Troubled Man.” To add to the confusion, this novella was made into an episode in the Kenneth Branagh version of Mankell’s books and the storyline was substantially changed. 

It doesn’t matter what the genesis was. Fans of Wallander will immediately know where to place the story.

Martinson, one of Wallander’s colleagues, wants to sell the home of a relative. It’s set in an isolated part of the countryside near Ystad, fairly close to where Wallander’s father used to live. Wallander is interested in finally moving out of his apartment, which he shares with his daughter, Linda, if the price is right. He examines the property and in the process trips over something. The something is a skeletal hand protruding from the ground in back of the house. Suddenly the home he envisioned has become a nightmare of police procedure.

Even though the crime proves to be dauntingly old, Wallander cannot drop his investigation. Through this novella, we get to see our favorite characters one last time. (Mankell has hinted, or at least not outright refused to consider, that there may be a Linda Wallander book if inspiration hits.)

Mankell has stated that he wanted the story and societal issue it represented to be at the forefront in his series, the only exception being “The Troubled Man,” in which major changes in Wallander’s life make him the focus. He feels that he has brought the Wallander books to a logical conclusion and would not like to emulate Conan Doyle, whose weak, in his opinion, return of Sherlock Holmes came because of the clamoring of fans.

Mankell packs a lot into his novella. It is an excellent effort and, as far as nostalgia goes, is a warm reminder of a great series.

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