July 26, 2015

Detective novels, like TV detective shows, are ruled by an immutable law: the killer becomes known with certainty just a few pages (minutes) before the end of the book (episode). Everything else that happens prior to that point is necessarily part of an elaborate waiting game constructed by the author:we look over the killer’s shoulder as each murder is planned and executed, we watch the detectives chase down one wrong road after another, and we watch helplessly as each detective’s private life dissolves into chaos in direct proportion to the degree of effort required to solve the case and bring the killer to justice. These elements are the meat that every murder mystery must serve up. If they do not satisfy, it would be best not to start reading in the first place. This is not to deny the fact that we won’t be satisfied until justice is served, but no one seriously doubts the killers will get away in the end so catching them can’t be the real reason we read. What drives us on, page after page, must be the flawed lives that detectives lead, and our awareness that we won’t know just how much distress the search for justice will cause our heroes unless we read. Call it schadenfreude, call it empathy or compassion, but unless we feel a visceral connection to the hero’s life we could forego detective novels for more sleep, or exercise, or conversation.

Maybe I am simply becoming acclimated to the Wallander stories, but I couldn’t help feeling that Firewall surpasses all of the previous books that Henning Mankell has written. The killers are, once again, True Believers and sociopaths (this time bent on destroying civilization and anyone who gets in their way), but the story in Firewall seemed to pack much more menace than previous stories. Each time I shut the book I felt a sense of dread that things were going awry.

Perhaps this dread was helped along by two new threats: the degeneration of Wallander’s long-abused 50-year old body, and a threat from a completely unexpected quarter: betrayal by Wallander’s closest colleagues on the police.

Is there any place of safety for Wallander? This is the question that haunts my own life, and it is the one that keeps me reading.

Finally, I should add: Cherchez la femme! Wallander, dude, you should know better!


One Response to “Firewall”

  1. […] ever reads this blog I’ll have to find a new hiding place for Christmas presents). How could Firewall be the last book in the series? But there it was. The very first sentence of Mankell’s […]

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