Monday, July 30, 2012

The Pyramid: and Four Other Kurt Wallander Stories by Henning Mankell

After writing Brandvägg in 1998, translated to Firewall in English, Swedish novelist Henning Mankell indicated that he was no longer intending to write about police inspector Kurt Wallander. Then almost immediately, he put together five stories (not particularly short) into a book to recount Wallander's early years as a policeman and investigator. Published in Sweden in 1999, American readers finally got The Pyramid: and Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries in 2008. The fifth story ends with an early morning phone call telling the groggy inspector to go to a murder scene which any devoted reader will recognize as the start of Faceless Killers, the first Wallander novel.

Though I have read several of the books and seen the Wallander television series with Kenneth Branagh, I made several connections in Wallander's character that I had not before. It helped to witness his relationship with his wife Mona instead of just hearing of it after the separation. The marriage seemed a mistake from the beginning and he could not see it - very much like real life. I also think that his domineering father primed him for involvement with an unsuitable partner. I also found, as in all Wallander books, his lack of personal discipline maddening at times but now see that it is the same unwillingness to adhere to the smart and logical that lets him disregard rules to make important discoveries.

"Wallander's First Case" is particularly interesting to anyone who has read Before the Frost, Mankell's novel about Kurt's daughter Linda. Father and daughter both get drawn into investigations before official police job appointments. Both foolishly put their lives at risk. Unlike all other Wallander stories, "The Man with the Mask" takes place in a single day. In "The Pyramid," Wallander juggles care for his  elderly father with official duties. All are as well crafted as the full-length novels.

Because the Wallander chronicle now starts with The Pyramid: and Four Other Kurt Wallander Stories, it would be a good introduction to the inspector. Readers can try out a story without as much of a time investment as the longer works and might even have a little more insight into the world that Mankell has created.

Mankell, Henning. The Pyramid: and Four Other Kurt Wallander Stories. New Press, 2008. 392p. ISBN 9781565849945.

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