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This is a collection of five mysteries featuring Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. It was originally published in 1999, and was one of the last in the series of Wallander novels by Henning Mankell, although it goes back in time. The first story is Wallander's first case when he is dating Mona, and the last occurs just after the detective's recent divorce from Mona. This takes readers up to the time just before the first novel in the series, Faceless Killers, in which Wallander has become used to his divorced state.
The series of stories in The Pyramid has most of the elements that make all Wallander novels so satisfying: he is a determined detective who risks his life in his quest to solve crime mysteries, but he often does not communicate well with his co-workers. He is often ambivalent about his job, but no other career interests him. He often works intuitively, and does not know what alerts him to a clue, but just knows that he has seen something important. He is often asleep at home when the phone rings and he has to get up and go, abandoning any other plans he had for later. He sacrifices his relationships for his job, but he longs for a good relationship with his daughter. His father is never pleased with him, and they always argue. He is often ill or injured, and experiences lots of pain and discomfort. The weather is always bad, and people complain about it.
The mysteries here are quite satisfying: a neighbor seems to have killed himself, but it might be a murder, and it turns out that he led a complicated and bizarre life. A man dies in a taxi, and everyone says he was extremely nice, so it seems there could have been no motive to kill him. A bland photographer is brutally bludgeoned to death in his studio, and it turns out that he made horribly distorted miniature portraits of politicians -- is this a clue to his murder? A small plane crashes into a field, and two old ladies are murdered and their sewing supplies shop is burned -- are these two events related? Wallander is always in the business of discovering the sad and unpleasant truths behind the appearances, and it never pleases him.
One interesting aspect of this series is the light it sheds on Wallander's development as a detective. We see his relationship with his boss and mentor Rydberg develop over time, as Wallander learns how to do the job, and we see some formative events in his life from which he learns important lessons. But just as interesting are his reflections on how Sweden has changed in response to a variety of social forces; Mankell's work gives a distinctive portrait of his country, highlighting the fragmentation of society and people's everyday unhappiness. While nowhere as overwrought as the agonized existentialism of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, Mankell's world does contain a distinctive social commentary that makes it quite gripping.
The unabridged audiobook is read by Dick Hill, who does most of the Wallander audiobooks, and his performance is excellent.
© 2009 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.
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