Crime Novel Excerpts: Henning Mankell

Favourite bits from Henning Mankell’s The Man Who Smiled (1994) and The Fifth Woman (1996):

Wallander “remembered something Rydberg had said during the last year of his life:  ‘A police station is essentially a prison. Police officers and criminals live their lives as mirror images of each other.  It’s not really possible to decide who’s incarcerated and who isn’t.'” The Man Who Smiled

“[T]he whole administration of public services in Sweden has undergone far-reaching changes in recent years. In many ways you could say it’s undergone an operation without quite enough anesthetic.” The Man Who Smiled

“She sat down in a chair and looked at the mute oven which towered like a sacrificial altar in the middle of the room. My mother would have understood, she thought. If no one does it, it won’t get done. Evil must be driven out with evil. Where there is no justice, it must be created.” The Fifth Woman

Wallander “thought about the unfinished conversation. Why everything was getting worse and more brutal. He wondered why he was so unwilling to reply. He knew quite well what the explanation was. The Sweden that was his, the country he had grown up in, that was built after the war, was not as rock-solid as they had thought. Under it all was quagmire. Even back then the high-rise suburbs that were erected were described as ‘inhuman.’ How could people who lived there be expected to keep their ‘humanity’ intact? Society has grown cruel. People who felt they were unwanted or outright unwelcome in their own country reacted with aggressiveness and contempt. There was no meaningless violence. Wallander knew that. Every violent act had a meaning for the person who committed it. Only when you dared accept this truth could you hope to turn the development in another direction.” The Fifth Woman

“Where his reaction came from, he didn’t know. Not then or later on. He tried to stop his own impulse, but he couldn’t. He slammed the receiver down hard. Stared at the phone. Then he got up and left. … He didn’t understand his own reaction. What would have happened if she had been right next to him [instead of on the phone]? He thought about the murdered men. It was as if he suddenly saw something he hadn’t seen before. Part of himself was hidden in all the brutality that surrounded him. He was part of it. Only the degree was different. Nothing else.” The Fifth Woman


One thought on “Crime Novel Excerpts: Henning Mankell

  1. I had never heard of Mankell before these blog posts but he sounds interesting. In terms of crime plotting, does he resemble anyone?

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