Scandanavian crime writing has seen a resurgence over the last three or four years. Henning Mankell is just one of a host of talented and rewarding writers who do exceptionally well in English translation. The social and political undercurrents in Swedish society since the proto-fascism of the thirties and forties and the more liberal nod to social planning of the sixties and after have left ingrained divisions, fomented no little by immigration, privation and the damage of an unequal society. The climate, the isolation and the insularity of the country are, it would appear, a breeding ground for criminality.
The BBC’s Police Inspector Kurt Wallander series has justifiably won plaudits and awards. Kenneth Branagh brings maturity and nuance to the part, helped by a peerless ensemble and a matchless metropolitan and rural backdrop. Worth the licence fee on its own, let’s hope the six further episodes announced will get the green light.
Faceless Killers is archetypal Mankell and archetypal Wallander. On a remote farm, an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death and his wife left to strangle herself from the cord wrapped around her neck and looped around a fitting on the ceiling. Her final words are reported as containing the term ‘foreign’ and a police leak gives local neo-nazis a reason to harass and threaten a nearby refugee camp.
Wallander, deserted by his wife, is drinking instead of sleeping. And there seem to be no trails and no real clues to this apparently motiveless act. The farmer’s horses had been fed: perhaps this means something. Only the inspired reasoning of a bright young bank clerk finally leads to the dramatic dénouement.
Spare, chilling, bleak, Dick Hill’s perfect reading of a faultless translation makes this a rare treat indeed, and inspired this listener to seek out more.
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