Years ago I read Mankell’s The Return of the Dancing Master (not a Wallander mystery) and found it enormously dark and well written. I have recently watched the excellent Wallander television series, starring Kenneth Branagh with support from the delightful Tom Hiddleston, and subsequently picked up the only Mankell book left on the library shelves. The Pyramid is a collection of short stories about Wallander’s early years, from about age 21 until his mid-forties.
The stories in this collection are very well written, each containing a well thought out mystery that kind of reflects Mankell’s thoughts on Swedish society as a whole. The characters are well-drawn and genuine, and it is interesting to see how they and their relationship with Wallander change throughout the stories. I have not yet read the Wallander novels, but I suspect this background information will be useful when I read them. Kurt Wallander is an excellent character, very human. Having recently read some of the Millenium series, it is hard not to compare him to Blomkvist – Wallander is so much more realistic and relatable. He is a man with normal familial troubles, every woman he meets does not automatically fall into bed with him, he is distressed at the world around him, and he doesn’t always make giant leaps or have deus ex machina hackers to solve all his mysteries for him. The police work is hard and often depressing, but he is good at it and knows that it is his duty. Wallander feels real, in a way that Blomkvist and even Rebus do not.
As with the Larsson novels, I did find much of the dialogue stilted, and again wonder about the quality of the translation. However, I enjoyed the book, and think it would be even better if I were more familiar with the full length novels. I will search them out in the New Year, and in the interim recommend this, The Return of the Dancing Master, and the BBC Wallander series as well.