Before the Frost, by Henning Mankell

by Peter

This book introduces Kurt Wallander’s daughter Linda as a main character. Many authors have tried similar solutions to the problem of continuation and failed miserably. Before the Frost, by Hening Mankell Henning Mankell, on the other hand, makes it seem very easy and succeeds. In this crime fiction book, often labeled as a “Linda Wallander mystery”, but really a Kurt and Linda Wallander book (just as his most recent Wallander-mystery Den uroliga mannen, published in Swedish in 2009), Linda starts working at the Ystad police and is – partly by courtesy of Kurt – let into the picture. And to make it very natural, Mankell lets Before the Frost deal with growing up, relations between fathers and daughters, and such. Those are very smart moves by Mankell. Impressive, actually.

As is common in Mankell’s books, this novel too opens with violence – two acts of violence in this case. And, of course, seemingly unrelated. The first is a massacre in Guyana. The second is a very sadistic killing of swans on a lake in Sweden.
Meanwhile, Linda has graduated from police college, and shares flat with the moody, sometimes over-drinking Kurt, and hangs out while waiting to start her new job with the Ystad police with Martinsson as her mentor. So Kurt allows her to tag along on one of his investigations. She is pretty frustrated, however, as one of her friends seems to have disappeared. So, on the side, and using somewhat unorthodox methods, Linda starts investigating the disappearance.

The plot is very exciting, to a large extent due to Mankell’s excellent writing, and it soon becomes clear that we are dealing with a dangerous mix of religious fanaticism, ritual murder, sacrifice, and such. Mankell shows how religion can be a most powerful tool for manipulating people, and can (also) be used for evil purposes.

Before the Frost is good – in my opinion not among the best in the series, but even so more than good enough. It is exciting and very entertaining. The plot is a little too far-fetched for my taste, but I still enjoyed the book a lot, and had a very hard time putting it down, especially towards the end.

Praise for Henning Mankell:

“Mankell is a master of the traditional arts of the crime novel, narrative pacing and suspense.”

–Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“An arresting story by an arresting writer … [Mankell] understands and probes the underside of everyday living – in an elegant and artful way.… He is able to look loneliness square in the eye. The result is writing that walks a line between ephemeral and everlasting.”

–The Washington Post

“Powerful…. Thoroughly engaging…. Amazingly human characters…. It’s a testament to Mankell’s skill with plot that the story gets more and more urgent as he transforms a series of small mysteries into a much larger thriller…. Mankell [is] a master storyteller.”

–San Francisco Chronicle

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