On Midsummer’s Eve, three friends gather in a secluded meadow in Sweden. In the beautifully clear twilight, they don eighteenth-century costumes and begin a secret role-play. But an uninvited guest soon brings their performance to a gruesome conclusion. His approach is careful; his aim is perfect. Three bullets, three corpses. And his plans have only just begun to take shape.
Meanwhile, Inspector Kurt Wallander is just back from vacation. Constantly fatigued, he soon learns his health is at risk—but there’s no time for rest when a fellow officer is murdered. Wallander soon discovers that the two grisly crimes are connected. A serial killer is on the loose, and the only lead is a photograph of a strange woman no one in Sweden seems to know. Forced to dig into the personal life of a trusted colleague, Wallander steps into a nightmare worse than any he could have imagined. Can he find his way out of the darkness before it’s too late?
A pulse-pounding thriller and an incisive investigation into the mysteries of human nature, One Step Behind is “typical of the dense, intricate intelligence that Mankell brings to detection and crime writing” (The Washington Post Book World).
About the Author
Date of Birth:February 3, 1948
Place of Birth:Stockholm, Sweden
Education:Folkskolan Elementary Shool, Sveg; Högre Allmäna Läroverket, Borås
Read an Excerpt
On Wednesday, the seventh of August, 1996, Kurt Wallander came close to being killed in a traffic accident just east of Ystad.
It happened early in the morning, shortly after six o'clock. He had just driven through Nybrostrand on his way out to Österlen. Suddenly he had seen a truck looming in front of his Peugeot. He heard the truck's horn blaring as he violently wrenched the wheel to the side.
Afterward he had pulled off the road. That was when the fear set in. His heart throbbed in his rib cage. He felt nauseated and dizzy, and he thought he was about to faint. He kept his hands tightly clenched around the wheel.
When he calmed himself he slowly realized what had happened.
He had fallen asleep at the wheel. Nodded off just long enough for his old car to begin to drift into the opposing lane.
One second longer and he would have been dead, crushed by the heavy truck.
The realization made him feel suddenly empty. The only thing he could think of was the time, a few years earlier, when he had almost driven into an elk outside Tingsryd.
But back then it had been dark and foggy. This time he had nodded off at the wheel.
He didn't understand it. It had come over him without warning, shortly before the start of his vacation at the beginning of June. This year he had planned to take his vacation early. But the whole holiday had been lost to rain. It was only when he returned to work shortly after Midsummer that the warm and sunny weather had come to Skåne.
The tiredness had been there all along. He could fall asleep in whatever chair he happened to find himself in. Even after a long night's undisturbed sleep, he had to force himself out of bed. Often when he was in the car he found himself needing to pull over to take a short nap.
He didn't understand it. His daughter Linda had asked him about his lack of energy during the week that they had spent sightseeing together in Gotland. It was on one of the last days, when they had checked into an inn in Burgsvik. They had spent the day exploring the southern tip of Gotland, and they had eaten dinner at a pizzeria before returning to the inn. The evening was particularly beautiful.
She had asked him point-blank about the fatigue. He had studied her face on the other side of the kerosene lamp and realized that her question had been thought out in advance. But he shrugged it off. There was nothing wrong with him. Surely, the fact that he used part of his vacation to catch up on lost sleep was to be expected. Linda didn't ask any other questions. But he knew that she hadn't believed him.
Now he realized that he couldn't ignore it any longer. The fatigue wasn't natural. Something was wrong. He tried to think if he had other symptoms that could signal an illness. But apart from the fact that he sometimes woke in the middle of the night with leg cramps, he hadn't been able to think of anything.
He realized how close to death he had been. Now he couldn't put it off any longer. He would make an appointment with the doctor today.
He started the engine and drove on. He rolled down the windows. Although it was already August, the heat of summer showed no sign of letting up.
Wallander was on his way to his father's house in Löderup. No matter how many times he went down this road, he still found it hard to adjust to the fact that his father wouldn't be sitting there in his studio, surrounded by the ever-present smell of turpentine, in front of the easel where he painted pictures of a recurring and unchanging subject: a landscape, with or without a wood grouse in the foreground, the sun hanging from invisible threads above the treetops.
It had been close to two years now since Gertrud had called the police station in Ystad and told him that his father was lying dead on the studio floor. He could still recall with photographic clarity his drive out to Löderup, denying that it could be true. But when he had seen Gertrud in the yard, he had known he could not repress it any longer. He had known what awaited him.
The two years had gone by quickly. As often as he could, but not often enough, he visited Gertrud, who still lived in his father's house. A year went by before they began to clean up the studio in earnest. They found a total of thirty-two paintings that were completed and signed. One night in December of 1995, they sat down at Gertrud's kitchen table and made up a list of the people who would receive these paintings. Wallander kept two for himself. One with a wood grouse, the other without. Linda would get one, as would his ex-wife, Mona. Surprisingly, and disappointingly to Wallander, his sister Kristina had not wanted one. Gertrud already had several and did not need any more. They therefore had twenty-eight paintings to give away. With some hesitation, Wallander sent one to a detective in Kristianstad with whom he had had sporadic contact. But after giving away twenty-three of the paintings, they couldn't think of any more names. At that point they had even given one to each of Gertrud's relatives. There were five paintings remaining.
Wallander wondered what he should do with them. He knew that he would never be able to make himself burn them.
Technically they belonged to Gertrud. But she had said that he and Kristina should have them. She had come so late into their father's life.
Wallander passed the turnoff to Kaseberga. He would be there soon. He thought about the task that lay before him. One evening in May, he and Gertrud had taken a long walk along the tractor trails that wound their way along the edges of the linseed fields. She said she no longer wanted to live there. It was starting to get too lonely.
"I don't want to live there so long that he starts to haunt me," she said.
Instinctively, he knew what she meant. He would probably have reacted the same way.
They walked between the fields and she asked for his help in selling the house. There was no hurry; it could wait until the summer's end. But she wanted to move out before the fall. Her sister was newly widowed and lived outside the town of Rynge, and that was where she wanted to move too.
Now the time had come. Wallander had taken the day off. At nine o'clock a real estate agent would come out from Ystad, and together they would settle on a reasonable selling price. Before that, Wallander and Gertrud would go through the last few boxes of his father's belongings. They had finished packing the week before. His colleague Martinsson came out with a trailer and they made several trips to the dump outside Hedeskoga. It occurred to Wallander, who was experiencing a growing sense of unease, that what remained of a person's life inevitably ended up at the nearest dump.
All that was left of his father now — aside from the memories — were some photographs, five paintings, and some boxes of old letters and papers. Nothing more. His life was over and completely accounted for.
Wallander turned down the road leading to his father's house.
He caught a glimpse of Gertrud waiting in the yard. She was always up early.
She greeted him. To his surprise he saw that she was wearing the same dress she had worn at the wedding. He immediately felt a lump in his throat. For Gertrud, this was a moment of solemnity. She was leaving her home.
They drank coffee in the kitchen, where the doors to the cabinets stood ajar and revealed empty shelves. Gertrud's sister was coming to get her today. Wallander would keep one key and give the other to the real estate agent.
Together they leafed through the contents of the two boxes. Among the old letters Wallander was surprised to find a pair of children's shoes that he seemed to remember from his childhood. Had his father saved them all these years?
He carried the boxes out to the car. When he closed the car door, he saw Gertrud on the steps. She smiled.
"There are five paintings left. You haven't forgotten about them, have you?"
Wallander shook his head. He walked toward the little house that had been his father's studio. The door was open. Although they had cleaned in here, the smell of turpentine remained. The pot that his father had used for making endless cups of coffee stood on the hotplate.
This may be the last time I am here, he thought. But in contrast to Gertrud I haven't dressed up. I'm in my old baggy clothes. And if I hadn't been so lucky I could also have been dead now, like my father. Linda would have to drive to the dump with what was left after me. And among my stuff she would find two paintings, one with a wood grouse painted in the foreground.
The place spooked him. His father was still in there in the dark studio.
The paintings were leaning against one wall. He carried them to the car. Then he lay them in the trunk and spread a blanket over them. Gertrud remained on the steps.
"Is there anything else?" she asked.
Wallander shook his head.
"There's nothing else," he answered. "Nothing."
* * *
At nine o'clock the real estate agent's car swung into the yard. When the man behind the wheel got out, Wallander realized to his surprise that he recognized him. His name was Robert Åkerblom. A couple of years earlier his wife had been brutally murdered and disposed of in an old well. It had been one of the most difficult and grisly murder investigations that Wallander had ever been involved in. He furrowed his brow. He had decided to contact a large real estate company that had offices all over Sweden. Åkerblom's business did not belong to them, if it was even still in existence. Wallander thought he had heard that it had closed shortly after Louise Åkerblom's murder.
He went out onto the steps. Robert Åkerblom looked exactly as Wallander remembered him. At their first meeting in Wallander's office he had wept. Wallander seemed to recall thinking at the time that Robert Åkerblom had one of those faces he would never remember. But the worry and grief for his wife had been genuine. Wallander recalled that they had been active in a non-Lutheran church. He thought they were Methodists.
They shook hands.
"We meet again," said Robert Åkerblom.
His voice sounded familiar. For a second Wallander felt confused. What was the right thing to say?
But Robert Åkerblom beat him to the punch.
"I grieve for her as much now as I did then," he said slowly. "But of course it's even harder for the girls."
Wallander remembered the two girls. They had been so young then. They took it in without being able to fully understand what had happened.
"It must be hard," he said.
For a moment he was afraid that the events of the last meeting would repeat themselves; that Robert Åkerblom would start crying. But that didn't happen.
"I tried to keep the business going," he continued, "but I didn't have the energy. When I got the offer to join the firm of a competitor, I took it. I've never regretted it. I don't have the long nights of going over the books anymore. I've been able to spend more time with the girls."
Gertrud joined them and they went through the house together. Robert Åkerblom made notes and took some photographs. Afterward they had a cup of coffee in the kitchen. The price that Åkerblom came up with seemed low to Wallander at first. Then he realized that it was three times what his father had paid for the place.
Robert Åkerblom left a little after eleven o'clock. Wallander thought he should perhaps stay until Gertrud's sister came to get her. But she sensed his thoughts and told him she didn't mind being left alone.
"It's a beautiful day," she said. "Summer has come at last, even though it's almost over. I'll sit in the garden."
"I'll stay if you like. I'm off work today."
Gertrud shook her head.
"Come and see me in Rynge," she said. "But wait a couple of weeks first. I have to get settled in."
Wallander got in his car and drove back to Ystad. He was going straight home to make an appointment with his doctor. Then he would sign up to use the laundry facilities and clean the apartment.
Since he wasn't in a hurry, he chose the longer way back. He liked driving, just looking at the landscape and letting his mind wander.
He had just passed Valleberga when the phone rang. It was Martinsson. Wallander pulled over.
"I've been trying to get hold of you," Martinsson said. "Of course no one mentioned that you were off work today. And do you know that your answering machine is broken?"
Wallander knew the machine sometimes got stuck. He also immediately sensed that something had just happened. Although he had been a policeman for a long time, the feeling was always the same. His stomach tensed up. He held his breath.
"I'm calling you from Hansson's room," Martinsson continued. "Astrid Hillström's mother is here to see me."
"Astrid Hillström. One of those missing kids. Her mother."
Now Wallander knew who he meant.
"What does she want?"
"She's very upset. Her daughter sent her a postcard from Vienna."
Wallander furrowed his brow.
"Isn't it good news that she's finally written?"
"She claims her daughter didn't write it. She's upset that we're not doing anything."
"How can we do anything when no crime seems to have been committed ? When all the evidence indicates that they left of their own accord?"
Martinsson paused for a moment before answering.
"I don't know what it is," he said. "But I have a feeling that there's something to what she's saying. I don't know what — but there's something. Maybe."
Wallander immediately grew more attentive. Over the years he had learned to take Martinsson's hunches seriously. More often than not, they were later proved right.
"Do you want me to come in?"
"No, but I think you, me, and Svedberg should talk this thing over tomorrow morning."
"How about eight o'clock? I'll tell Svedberg."
Wallander sat still for a moment after the conversation was over. He watched a tractor out on a field.
He thought about what Martinsson had said. He had also met Astrid Hillström's mother on several occasions.
He went over the events again in his mind.
A few days after Midsummer's Eve some young people were reported missing. It happened right after he had returned from his rainy vacation. He reviewed the case together with a couple of his colleagues. From the outset he doubted that any crime had been committed and, as it turned out, a postcard arrived from Hamburg three days later. It had a picture of the central railway station on the front. Wallander could recall its message word for word. We are traveling around Europe. We may be gone until the middle of August.
Today it was Wednesday, the seventh of August. They would be home soon. Another postcard written by Astrid Hillström came from Vienna.
The first card was signed by all three of them. Their parents recognized the signatures. Only Astrid Hillström's mother hesitated. But she allowed herself to be convinced by the others.
Wallander glanced in his rearview mirror and drove out onto the main road. Martinsson had been right about his misgivings.
Wallander parked on Mariagatan and carried up the boxes and the five paintings. Then he sat down by the phone. At his regular doctor's office he only reached an answering machine. The doctor wouldn't be back from vacation until the twelfth of August. Wallander wondered if he should wait until then, but he couldn't shake the thought of how close to death he had come that morning. He called another doctor and made an appointment for eleven o'clock the following day. He signed up to do laundry, then started cleaning his apartment. He was already completely exhausted after doing the bedroom. He pulled the vacuum cleaner back and forth a few times over the living room floor,then put it away. He carried the boxes and paintings into the room that Linda normally used the few times she came to stay.
He drank three glasses of water in the kitchen.
He wondered about his thirst and the fatigue. What was causing them?
It was already noon, and he realized he was hungry. A quick look in the refrigerator told him there wasn't much there. He put on his coat and went out. It was a nice day. As he walked to the center of town, he looked at the properties for sale in the windows of three separate real estate offices. He realized that the price Robert Åkerblom had suggested was fair. They could hardly get more than 300,000 kronor for the house in Löderup.
He stopped at a fast-food kiosk and ate a hamburger. He also drank two bottles of mineral water. Then he went into a shoe store where he knew the owner and used the bathroom. When he came back out onto the street, he felt unsure of what to do next. He should have used his day off to go shopping. He had no food in the house. But right now he didn't have the energy to go back for the car and drive to a supermarket. After Hamngatan, he crossed the train tracks and turned down Spanienfararegatan. When he arrived down at the waterfront, he strolled along a pier and looked at all the sailboats. He wondered what it would be like to sail. It was something he had absolutely no experience with at all. Then he realized he needed to urinate again. He used the restroom at the harbor café, drank another bottle of mineral water, and sat down on a bench outside the red Coast Guard building.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "One Step Behind"
Copyright © 1997 Henning Mankell.
Excerpted by permission of The New Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
“Lyrical, meticulous, and stunningly suspenseful.” —St. Petersburg Times
The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggested reading list that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Swedish novelist Henning Mankell’s most chilling Kurt Wallander mystery, One Step Behind.
1. One Step Behind begins with Inspector Kurt Wallander nearly being killed in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel. What tone does this near-death experience set for the novel? What role does Wallander’s fatigue play in the events that follow?
2. Early in the novel, Wallander thinks of his colleagues: “They don’t know much about me and I don’t know much about them. We work together, maybe over the course of an entire career, and what do we learn about each other? Nothing” [p. 29]. In what ways can the novel be read as a meditation on the limits of human knowledge? Where else in the story does this lack of knowledge play a significant role?
3. In trying to fathom the murderer’s mindset, Wallander thinks, “I’ve never believed in pure evil. There are no evil people, no one with brutality in their genes. There are evil circumstances and environments, not evil per se. But here I sense the actions of a truly darkened mind” [p. 162]. Is he correct in thinking that brutal behavior is a result of one’s environment rather than of one’s character? What motivates the killer in One Step Behind to commit his crimes?
4. Wallander is often “struck by the feeling that something [isn’t] quite right” [p. 65]. To what extent does he rely on feeling and intuition to guide him in solving the mystery in One Step Behind?
5. At various points throughout the novel, and especially after Isa is murdered, Wallander is accused of botching the investigation. Are the criticisms brought against him justified? What mistakes does he make? Should he have been able to foresee his errors?
6. Wallander is an unusually disheveled kind of detective. Far from being a self-confident tough-guy, he’s forgetful, full of self-doubt, in poor health, prone to mistakes, and perpetually exhausted. Why do these characteristics tend to make him a more, rather than less, appealing protagonist? What would the novel lose if Wallander were more conventionally competent? What qualities make him a forceful figure, despite these weaknesses?
7. Wallander observes that there was a similarity between his murdered colleague Svedberg and the young people killed in the nature preserve: “They had all had secrets” [p. 210]. Who else in the novel has a secret? In what way is the novel really about keeping and uncovering secrets?
8. Martinsson observes that the killer “always manages to stay one step ahead of us and one step behind at the same time” [p. 394]. How does Mankell keep the reader also one step ahead and one step behind the actions of the murderer? Why does Mankell often allow the reader to know more than the detectives? What kind of suspense does this knowledge create?
9. Late in the novel, as Wallander and the other detectives come close to despair, Martinsson argues that the killer has no motive, that he kills simply “for the sake of killing.” When Wallander disagrees, Martinsson says, “Until a few years ago, I would have agreed with you: there’s an explanation for all violence. But that just isn’t the case any more” [p. 331]. Does this particular killer have an understandable motive? Or is he right in suggesting that violence in our time is increasingly senseless?
10. How is Wallander able to solve this mystery? What are the major turning points in his investigation? What qualities of character and intelligence enable Wallander to apprehend the killer?
11. What picture of Swedish society emerges from One Step Behind? How do the novel’s minor characters—Isa Edengren and her wealthy parents, the bank director Bror Sundelius, Svedberg’s cousin Sture Bjorklund, the mailman Westin, and others—contribute to the overall social reality of the novel? Are Martinsson and Wallander right in thinking that Swedish society is unraveling?
12. One Step Behind is preceded by an epigraph from the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “There are always more disordered than ordered systems” [p. vii]. And Wallander thinks to himself, “reality was rarely reasonable” [p. 98]. How is this disordered sense of reality conveyed in the novel? Which plays a greater role in solving the murder mystery in the novel: the use of reason or the reliance on spontaneous, irrational hunches?
13. Of the gawkers who come to look at a crime scene, Wallander says, “They probably get a thrill from being in the presence of the unthinkable. . . . Knowing that they themselves are safe” [p. 315]. Is this, at least in part, the reason why people read thrillers?
14. How does One Step Behind differ from American thrillers? What qualities distinguish the novel, and its hero, Kurt Wallander, as distinctly European?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mankell is an intelligent writer who knows how to combine the detail of a police procedural with the drama of a thriller. His insights into present-day Sweden are particularly informative (if dismaying). I'm about to start his eighth book in the Wallander series, and can't wait for his newest effort to be published in English. But I do have an issue with Mr. Mankell. Reading his Wallander series is an enjoyable experience for mystery buffs, especially those who like police procedurals. What takes the edge off these experiences, however, is the way in which Mankell wraps up the stories--i.e., the apprehension of the culprit. Starting with his second effort, "The Dogs of Riga," Mankell turns Wallander into a James Bond-like character at the end of these books. After writing 400 pages of totally believable narrative about good police work, Mankell throws it all away and turns Wallander into a superhero. In "One Step Behind," Wallander locks his gun in his desk and forgets his cell phone in his office while a psychotic killer is on the loose. Of course, this enables him to capture his target unarmed and without backup, but the final scenario is without credibility--especially compared to the believability of the rest of the book. Not sure why Mankell felt obliged to deviate from the realism of 400 pages and switch to a Hollywood-type ending in the last 25 or 30, but it does take the edge off an otherwise extremely enjoyable reading experience.
One Step Behind was the first Mankell I've read, but is will not be the last. His protagonist, Kurt Wallander, is a believable and flawed character which makes the process of solving the mystery all the more realistic. A great psychological thriller.
You just can't put this one down. For fans of Ruth Rendell and PD James, Henning Mankell is their Swedish equivalent. Buy this one immediately!
On Midsummer's Eve 1996, the three twentyish friends garbed in period piece costumes celebrate the holiday in the woods that is near the midpoint between their homes until someone kills the trio. Swedish Inspector Kurt Wallander just returned from vacation worries about what diabetes is doing to his health, but the shootings take precedent over his personal pity. Though the illness seems to tire him, he contends with the demands from the media, brass, and politicians to solve the case yesterday. Adding to Kurt¿s pressure is the murder of a fellow officer Svedberg with half the man¿s head blow to bits. Kurt digs deeply into the personal life of Svedberg, uncovering things he can not fathom with what he knew of his peer. As he realizes that the cases tie together and a serial killer haunts the south of Sweden, Kurt and his team constantly fails to stop an adept killing machine. ONE STEP BEYOND is not a rehash of the scripts from the TV show, but instead is a terrific English translation of a strong Swedish police procedural. Though at times the interpretation seems off, the story line provides the audience with a delightful investigation and a deep look at the aging protagonist as he struggles with health problems. The sleuthing makes for a wonderful time for those readers who relish international flavor to their law enforcement stories. However, the key to this novel is the hero, a tired person who pushes to perform his duty. The genre audience has the treat of six other Wallander cases will also be translated and published over the next two years. Harriet Klausner
Absolutely amazing. I loved this book. It was scary, suspenseful, maddening, and it gave me nightmares. Definitely recommend it.
I thought maybe I should write a review in English here. Although I have enjoyed all the Wallendar books, I thought this one was especially good. The plot involving Svedberg was something new and different and added to the story.
I enjoyed this book very much. The pace was slow and realistic. I was exposed to clues and followed trails along with the police force, heading in wrong directions, making mistakes, back tracking and finally figuring things out. Mankell is a master at taking the reader along for the ride. His protagonist, Kurt Wollander, is very believable as a detective. He's smart, but not brilliant, forgetful, but detail oriented, patient, but only up to a point. I will read more books by this author.
Henning Mankel has proven himself to be a wonderful crime novelist. His books create a unique sense of atmosphere along with razor-sharp plotting. The great pleasure in reading Mankell is the social commentary on Sweden's changing society. His fiction is at least as much about evolving mores in Swedish culture as it is about the classic "whodunits."
This is a likeable, powerful, slow but not plodding mystery including murder, suicide, love, and more. The lead detective, Wallander, seems very believable as a gruff (without the inner teddy bear) wizened hard-driver. The multiple group meetings in the conference room and the worsening health with real symptoms are a couple of the touches that add realism to the typically glossed over mundane world of real policing in the station. Set in Ystad a town in County Skane, Sweden, the story takes place almost exclusively in Sweden. References to past cases-perhaps to engage readers of earlier novels-are thankfully few. The lack of skill among the male detectives in attracting and engaging with women is thankfully realistic. The pace starts very slow but soon picks up. The clues and facts that a reader picks up but the characters do not definitely are engaging and evoke energy, concern, and care from the reader. The story is weak at times and leaves some significant questions unanswered where they could have gracefully been covered before the book ends, which seems almost ham-handed but perhaps realistic. The book is solid but there is nothing absolutely amazing about it and it might sacrifice glamor, violence, or intrigue and gritty details at the expense of a whole lot of realism. And at 400+ p[ages, no one is going to call this taut but the pace at the end satisfies.
A serial killer is stalking happy people.Swedish police inspector Kurt Wallander can't actually be described as happy - in fact, he's anything but, as he can't seem to get enough sleep and is beginning to question his commitment to his job. But something about the disappearance of three teenagers and a colleague's murder strikes him as connected. The only way he'll stop more people from dying is to stop the killer... but to do that he'll have to hold his shaky team together, and that may be the hardest challenge he's faced yet.Deliberately paced, introspective, and interesting.
Another relatively straightforward policy procedural featuring INspector Wallander, but also an excellent and psycholoogically perceptive read. In this one, Wallander senses a connection between the murder of three young people in the woods on Midsummer Eve, and the killing of one of Wallenberg's police colleagues. The gradual peicing together of the case is fascinating to watch, as are the relationships among the police.
Henning Mankell¿s police procedural novels are like potato chips: the first one is so fine, you wonder why you¿re not devouring handfuls every day. But by the time you get to the bottom of the bag ¿ or perhaps to the fifth or sixth of Mankell¿s novels you¿ve read ¿ a bit of backlash sets in. What you¿ve got is still great, sure, but you just don¿t have the same appetite for it you once did.I suspect, therefore, that if you¿re new to Mankell¿s work (which I do recommend), you will find One Step Behind a real treat. It¿s highly competent work, with a good protagonist, i.e. Detective Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander.In this story, Wallander is battling not only the black dog of depression that regularly haunts him, but also incipient diabetes: let¿s just say you are not likely to find a work of popular fiction in which more time is spent in the men¿s room than this one. The mystery is also well-plotted; two separate killings are quite quickly recognized as related (which is a relief; who doesn¿t hate a murder mystery in which seemingly-random threads `come together¿ at the end in ridiculously unlikely fashion?), and Wallander and team are soon working round the clock as the killer leaves them constantly feeling `one step behind¿. On the downside, this book is utterly humorless ¿ this seems typical of the Scandinavian murder-mystery sub-genre ¿ and its translation seems unusually flat. It¿s a pace-y but prosaic journey we take around southern Sweden. Also, although there is no one incident in the story at which the suspension of disbelief is shattered, there are many implausible and unlikely events. I won¿t include spoilers, but there were several sequences in which it¿s clear Mankell was finding it hard to keep at bay the imaginary screen adapters looking over his shoulder.Never the less, One Step Behind is an enjoyable read, and is recommended.
A very good and very entertaining and suspenseful crime novel. Kurt Wallander--the main detective in a series of books by Henning Mankell is given the job of finding the murderer of three young people out celebrating midsummer's eve in a forest preserve--but it's not as simple as that because at first there are no bodies and foul play is only presumed by one of the parents of those kids. Instead it's a missing persons case while at the same time there is another mysterious murder of one of Wallander's detective team--Svedberg who as it happens had been investigating the disappearance (at the request of said concerned parent on his own time and unknown to Wallander etal) of the very same kids.Well--a murderer is on the loose and no one has a clue as to his identity or what his motivation is. The scene of Svedberg's murder--his apartment is strewn with his belongings and the shotgun--the murder weapon is there as well. And as it happens the midsummer's night celebration was meant to be for 4 kids and not 3--a young lady begging off because of a stomach ailment. Returning to Svedberg's apartment on his own Wallander discovers a hiding place in which there is two photographs--one of one of the kids in the group that had been murdered and another of a mysterious woman--later on identified as Louise. Still not a lot to go on. And then there are more murders including the girl who had been sick which happens right under Wallander's nose.Anyway one of the things that makes One step behind so good is being taken through the whole process of the investigation--numerous interviews, dead ends, evaporating leads. Wallander himself is not feeling very well for all this--he's in the initial stages of a diabetes diagnosis and the investigation as well will exacerbate a chronic case of insomnia. Well you can imagine. To top it all off they will have to dig into the dirt of the life of one of their own--a very well liked detective about whom they will very soon find out they knew very little about his private life. Eventually some leads do start paying off--and slowly they will begin collating the good information from the bad--circling in on the culprit--as it happens a disgruntled transvestite postal worker with a habit of reading other peoples mail. Well it takes all kinds. All in all it's well written, keenly observed and the pace is right on the money. That's a combination that is hard to beat and this is one of--though not quite--the best crime novels I've read. To sum up I do see myself reading more of Mankell's work--very well done.
I had never read a Mankell "Kurt Wallander" book before but now can't wait to read them all! This book got my interest right away and I really couldn't put it down. Wallander is a down to earth, smart detective, and I look forward to reading many more of his adventures.