Great news for fans who feared they’d see no more of Kurt Wallander: a characteristically melancholy novella whose events take place in 2002, just before those of Wallander’s last appearance (The Troubled Man, 2011).
The most beloved curmudgeon of the Ystad police is feeling his age, his temperament and his mortality. Would a change of scene help? His colleague Martinson offers him first crack at a country home he’s selling for his wife’s cousin, now grown old and senile. Although Wallander’s skeptical about the place, it turns out to be absolutely perfect except for the skeletal hand he finds sticking up from the yard just as he’s about to leave. His find is at least 50 years old, but it gives him pause. And the discovery of two equally old skeletons on the grounds effectively kills his appetite for buying the house. But now at least his life has been given new purpose: to figure out who killed these two victims, both dead by violence, and why no one in town ever reported them missing. A promising lead that turns out to be a red herring ends up providing a clue that leads to the murderer, whom Wallander confronts in a highly implausible but utterly satisfying sequence. Miraculously, nothing about the story’s small scale prevents Wallander from casting a shadow as long as ever, and many readers will be less concerned with how he winds up the mystery than with whether he ends up purchasing that house after all.
As a bonus, Mankell (A Treacherous Paradise, 2013, etc.) appends a reminiscence of Wallander’s creation and a brief account of this tale’s composition that includes its saddest sentence: “There are no more stories about Kurt Wallander.”