Who would so savagely kill an elderly farming couple in the Swedish town of Lenarp--the husband gruesomely tortured, the wife slowly strangled with a noose tied in an unusual knot--and then step out to the couple's barn to feed their horse? Inspector Kurt Wallander, battling midlife crisis--his estranged daughter has rarely called him since she lit out from home; his estranged wife greets him by telling him how much weight he's put on--would love to have the leisure to speculate about the identity of the killers, described only by the dying Maria Lîvgren as "foreign." As acting chief of the Ystad police, though, he's got more urgent business on his hands: a series of xenophobic phone calls ("You now have three days to make up for shielding foreign criminals. . . . Or else we'll take over") from somebody who's willing to set fire to a refugee camp barracks and gun down a visiting Somali to show how serious he is. Surprised by the news that Johannes Lîvgren was not exactly the colorless chap he appeared, Wallander despairs of finding enough time or energy to kindle a romance with deputy D.A. Anette Brolin, who's married to boot. But how long will it take his plunge into ethnic hatred to give him the answers he needs? Though "the last thing Kurt Wallander felt like was a laughing policeman," fans of Maj Sjîwall and Per Wahlîî will feel right at home in this first (1991) of Mankell's five Wallander novels, right down to the laconic paragraphing. Readers who think of Sweden as snow-white are in for a surprise.