In Ystad, the middle-sized Swedish city that Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander (The Fifth Woman
, 2000, etc.) tries to keep law-abiding, it seems he's succeeding: big crime has taken a holiday during a decorous summer. But Wallander, just returned from a holiday of his own, is feeling far less invigorated than he expected to. He's got no energy, no zest for the job, and no reason to plan for life much beyond 50, his doctor tells him grimly, unless he does something about the hours he works, the junk food he eats, and the exercise he assiduously avoids. Even as Wallander vows to reinvent himself, however, all hell breaks loose in Ystad, ending any dreams of peace for weary Wallander and his undermanned department. Three young celebrants of a bizarre, if probably harmless, Midsummer's Eve ritual, first thought to be only missing, are found murdered, executed by bullets to their heads. Next, one of Wallander's special officers is shotgunned to death in his own house. The homicides that follow give every indication of being somehow connected. Clearly, Ystad has a serial killer on its hands, a careful, crafty killer with an obsessive hatred for, of all things, happiness. Wallander, who has always maintained that there are "evil circumstances" and "evil conditions" but no people with evil "hardwired in their genes," is shaken. And then, one night, alone in the secluded woods, he knows he's being stalked by a monster.
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