Henning Mankell has become a worldwide phenomenon with his crime writing, gripping thrillers and atmospheric novels. His prize-winning, critically acclaimed Inspector Wallander mysteries are some of the best loved all over the globe.
In Before the Frost, Henning Mankell begins a new chapter: as Kurt prepares for retirement his daughter Linda prepares to join the Ystad police force and becomes an immediate star in her own right.
Read an extract from this gripping thriller by Henning Mankell below.
Before The Frost by Henning Mankell
Jamestown, November 1978
His thoughts were like a shower of red-hot glowing needles in his head, an almost unbearable pain. He did his utmost to remain calm, to think clearly. The worst thing was fear. The fear that Jim would unleash his dogs and hunt him down, like the terrified beast of prey he had become. Jim’s dogs: they were what he was most afraid of. All through that long night of November 18, when he had run until he was exhausted
and had hidden among the decomposing roots of a fallen tree, he imagined that he could hear them closing in.
Jim never lets anyone escape, he thought. He seemed to me to be filled by an endless and divine source of love, but the man I have followed has turned out to be someone quite different. Unnoticed by us, he changed places with his shadow or with the Devil, whom he was always warning us about. The Devil of selfishness, who keeps us from serving God with obedience and submission. What appeared to me to be love turned into hate. I should have seen this earlier. Jim himself warned us about it time and again. He gave us the truth, but not all at once. It came slowly, a creeping realisation. But neither I nor anyone else wanted to hear it: the truth buried between the lines. It was my fault, I didn’t want to see it. In his sermons and in all his teachings he did not only talk of the spiritual preparations we needed to undergo to ready ourselves for the Day of Judgment. He was also always telling us that we had to be ready to die.
He arrested the train of his thoughts and listened. Wasn’t that the dogs barking? But no, it was only a sound inside him, generated by his fear. He went back in his confused and terrified mind to the apocalyptic events in Jamestown. He needed to understand what had happened.
Jim was their leader, shepherd, pastor. They had followed him in the exodus from California when they could no longer tolerate the persecution from the media and the state authorities. In Guyana, they were going to realise their dreams of a life of peaceful coexistence with nature and each other in God. And at first they had experienced something very close to that. But then it changed. Could they have been as threatened in Guyana as in California? Would they be safe anywhere? Perhaps only in death would they find the kind of protection they needed to construct the community they strove for. “I have seen far in my mind,” Jim said. “I have seen much further than before. The Day of Judgment is near at hand and if we are not to perish in that terrible maelstrom we have to be ready to die. Only through physical death will we survive.”
Suicide was the only answer. When Jim stood in the pulpit and mentioned it for the first time there was nothing frightening about his words. Initially parents were to give drinks laced with cyanide to their children; cyanide which Jim had stockpiled in plastic containers in a locked room at the back of his house. Then the grown-ups would take the poison. Those who were overcome with doubt in the final instance would be assisted by Jim and his closest associates. If they ran out of poison, they had guns. Jim would make sure that everybody was taken care of before he put the muzzle to his own head.
He lay under the tree, panting in the tropical heat. His ears strained to catch any sound of Jim’s dogs, those large, red-eyed monsters that had inspired fear in all of them. Jim had told them that everyone in his congregation, everyone who had chosen to follow his path and come to Guyana, had no choice but to continue on the path laid out by God. The path which James Warren Jones had decided was the right one.
It had sounded so comforting. No-one else would have been able to make words like death, suicide, cyanide and weapons sound so beautiful and soothing.
He shivered. Jim has walked around and inspected the dead, he thought. He knows I am missing and he’s going to send the dogs after me. The thought clawed its way out of his mind: the dead. Tears began to run down his face. For the first time, he took in the enormity of what had happened: Maria and the girl were dead, everyone was dead. But he did not want to believe it. Maria and he had talked about this in the small hours: Jim was no longer the same man they had once been drawn to, the one who had promised them salvation and a meaningful life if they joined the People’s Temple. It was Maria who put her finger on it. “Jim’s eyes have changed,” she said. “He doesn’t see us now. He looks past us and his eyes are cold, as if he wants nothing to do with any of us any more.”
They spoke of running away together, but every morning they agreed that they could not abandon the path they had chosen. Jim would become his old self again. He
was suffering some sort of crisis and it would soon be over; he was stronger than all of them. And without him they would never have had this brief experience of what seemed to them like heaven on earth.
There was one memory which stood out. It was from that time when the drugs, alcohol and guilt about leaving his little daughter had brought him close to ending it. He wanted to throw himself in front of a truck or train and then it would be over and no-one would miss him. During one of those last meandering walks through town, when he was saying goodbye to all the people who didn’t care one way or another whether he lived or died, he happened to pass by the People’s Temple. “It was God’s plan,” Jim said later. “He had already decided that you would be among the chosen, one of the few to experience His mercy.” He didn’t know what had made him walk up those steps and go into the building that looked nothing like a church. He still didn’t know what it was, even now when he lay
among the roots of a tree, waiting for Jim’s dogs to track him down and tear him limb from limb.
He knew he should be making good his escape, but he did not leave his hiding place.He had abandoned one child already; he was not going to abandon another. Maria and the girl were still back there with the others.
What had really happened? They had got up as usual in the morning and gathered outside Jim’s door. It stayed shut, as it so often had in the last days. They had therefore prayed without him, the 912 adults and the 320 children. Then they had left for their various jobs. He would never have survived had he not been one of a team given the task of finding two runaway cows. When he said goodbye to Maria and his daughter, he had no inkling of the terror to come. It was only when he and the other men reached the far side of the ravine that he understood that something was terribly wrong.
They had stopped dead in their tracks at the first sound of gunfire. And perhaps they heard human screams mingled with the chatter of the birds. They had looked at each other and then run back down towards the colony. He had become separated from the other men on the way back – possibly they had decided to flee rather than return. When he emerged from the shady forest and climbed the fence to the fruit orchards, everything was silent. Too silent. No-one was there, picking fruit. No-one at all was to be seen.He ran towards the houses, sure that something disastrous had occurred. Jim must have come out of his house this day with hate, not love, blazing from his eyes.