In this brilliant police procedural, which has also been filmed and was recently shown on TV in the US, three friends are killed in a secluded meadow on Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden. They have a nice party, all the time being observed from a distance by the killer. And when they eventually fall asleep, the murderer walks up to them and kills them. Three shots, one in the head of each. Then he carefully buries them. In One Step Behind, Wallander confronts perhaps his most horrific case so far.
While we, as readers, know all this, Mankell’s modest hero Inspector Kurt Wallander does not know. All he knows, is that the three have been reported missing. However, as one of the missing girls send postcards home from various European countries, the case of the three missing people does not receive much attention.
Kurt Wallander’s focus is instead on a healthier life, as he has been diagnosed with diabetes. Then the relative peace in Ystad is completely shattered when his colleague Svedberg is murdered. There is very little to learn from the scene of the crime. Thus Wallander turns to the motive: Why was Svedberg murdered? It soon turns out that Svedberg had been hard at work during his vacation with the case of the three missing persons. Is there a connection between the two cases?
As well, during the investigation Wallander surprisingly learns that Svedberg had a mysterious girlfriend – Louise. No one has ever seen her, but Wallander eventually locates a picture of her, and also a picture of three young people in costume. These are the only leads.
Then the bodies of the three missing people surface. And Wallander learns that a fourth friend should have been at the party, but was prevented by illness. He locates her twice, and the second time he does, she is killed during the night while Wallander is sleeping in the same house. So now Wallander must deal with a police killing and a serial killer who has killed four people.
Wallander’s investigation is very persistent, occasionally even brilliant, and gradually uncovers useful information. And more murders follow while the exhausted Wallander and the under-staffed Ystad police struggles to prevent the next murder.
The mystery in One Step Behind is riveting. We really have the feeling that we solve the crime with the team at the Ystad police station. The writing is excellent. And the development of Wallander’s character in this book is very interesting as well. Simply a wonderful, very exciting crime fiction book. A remarkable book you really ought to read!
(Read more reviews of Henning Mankell‘s books at ScandinavianBooks!)