Monday, May 24, 2010

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell

I do not usually read anything described as "a global thriller," but I made an exception for The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell. I had already enjoyed reading his mystery Faceless Killers featuring the detective Kurt Wallander and watching the first series of Wallender mysteries on PBS. I also heard Mankell on an NPR Books podcast talking about the writing of The Man from Beijing, which incorporates both nineteenth century history of the American West and the current affairs of countries in Africa. Mankell insisted that his book is fiction, but he lives part of the year in Africa and appears to have some uncommon ideas about global affairs. I thought the new book was worth a try. I was sure it would be different than the typical spy-in-Cold-War-world or agent-against-terrorism type of thriller.

Mankell delivered. His new book begins as a look at a horrible crime in Sweden, which I do not want to reveal. What starts as a local matter turns into an international story, which readers can probably guess from the title. Action takes place in Sweden, China, the United States, London, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, mostly in the present other than the section telling about a Chinese man who was kidnapped to work on the transcontinental railroad in the American West. Most of the strong characters are women, who Mankell said in an interview always prove to be smarter, stronger, and more moral than men.

Mankell's strongest interest in publishing The Man from Beijing may be expressing his ideas about China and Africa, but do not worry. He still tells a great story.

Mankell, Henning. The Man from Beijing. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. ISBN 9780307271860.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Sounds fascinating. Once I finish "Out of Mao's Shadow" I'll pick it up.