Swedish writer Henning Mankell is best known for his crime fiction series featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander. Having sold millions of copies worldwide, the Wallander stories have been adapted a number of times, growing the detective’s fan base even further.
It is said that Mankell created Wallander as he wanted to write about the shocking xenophobia he witnessed in Swedish society – and as he considered racism to be a crime, he believed a police officer would be the most fitting character to use to explore the subject. Wallander himself is by no means a perfect character, and his flaws and troubles in his private life feature throughout the series of books. Cases often affect him on a personal level making him all the more determined to solve each mystery.
Here’s a short taster of the Kurt Wallander books in order.
Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander books in order:
One frozen January morning at 5am, Wallander responds to what he believes is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath. An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, both victims of a violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, it unleashes a tide of racism.
Wallander’s life is a shambles. His wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him, and even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly, and drinks his nights away. But now Wallander must forget his troubles and throw himself into a battle against time and against mounting racial hatred.
Sweden, winter, 1991. Wallander and his team receive an anonymous tip-off. A few days later a life raft is washed up on a beach. In it are two men, dressed in expensive suits, shot dead. The dead men were criminals, victims of what seems to have been a gangland hit. But what appears to be an open-and-shut case soon takes on a far more sinister aspect. Wallander travels across the Baltic Sea, to Riga in Latvia, where he is plunged into a frozen, alien world of police surveillance, scarcely veiled threats and lies.
Doomed always to be one step behind the shadowy figures he pursues, only Wallander’s obstinate desire to see that justice is done brings the truth to light.
In 1992, in Southern Sweden, Louise Akerblom, an estate agent and pillar of the Methodist church, disappears. There is no explanation and no motive. Wallander and his team are called in to investigate.
Wallander has a gut feeling that the victim will never be found alive, but has no idea how far he will have to go in search of the killer. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela has made his long walk to freedom, setting in train the country’s painful journey towards the end of the apartheid. Wallander and his colleagues find themselves caught up in a complex web involving renegade members of South Africa’s secret service and a former KGB agent, all of whom are set upon halting Mandela’s rise to power. Faced with an increasingly globalised world in which international terrorism knows no national borders, Wallander must prevent a hideous crime that means to dam the tide of history.
Spiralling into an alcohol-fuelled depression after killing a man in the line of duty, Wallander has made up his mind to quit the police force for good. When an old acquaintance seeks Wallander’s help to investigate the suspicious circumstances in which his father has died, Kurt doesn’t want to know. But when his former friend turns up dead, shot three times, Wallander realises that he was wrong not to listen.
Against his better judgment, he returns to work to head what may now have become a double murder case. An enigmatic big-business tycoon seems to be the common denominator in the two deaths. But while Wallander is on the trail of the killer, somebody is on the trail of Wallander, and closing in fast…
Midsummer approaches and Wallander prepares for a holiday with the new woman in his life, hopeful that his wayward daughter and his ageing father will cope without him.
But his restful summer plans are thrown into disarray when a teenage girl commits suicide before his eyes, and a former minister of justice is butchered in the first of a series of apparently motiveless murders. Wallander’s desperate hunt for the girl’s identity and his furious pursuit of a killer who scalps his victims will throw him and those he loves most into mortal danger.
Four nuns and a fifth woman are killed in a savage night-time attack in Africa. A year later, Inspector Kurt Wallander invesigates the disappearance of an elderly birdwatcher and discovers a gruesome and meticulously planned murder – a body impaled in a trap of sharpened bamboo poles. Then, another man is reported missing.
Once again Wallander’s life is put on hold as he and his team work tirelessly to find a link between the series of vicious murders.
It is Midsummer’s Eve. Three young friends meet in a wood to act out an elaborate masque. But, unknown to them, they are being watched. Each is killed by a single bullet.
Soon afterwards, one of Wallander’s colleagues is found murdered. Is it the same killer, and what could the connection be? In this investigation, Wallander is always, tantalisingly, one step behind.
Stopping to use a cash machine one evening, a man falls to the ground dead. A taxi driver is brutally murdered by two teenage girls – one of whom escapes police custody and disappears without trace. Soon afterwards, a blackout covers half the country. When an engineer arrives at the malfunctioning power station, he makes a grisly discovery…
Wallander is sure that these events must be linked – somehow. Hampered by the discovery of betrayals in his own team, lonely and frustrated, Wallander begins to lose conviction in his role as a detective. And somehow these criminals always know the police’s next move.
Every morning Håkan von Enke takes a walk in the forest near his apartment in Stockholm. Then, one day he fails to come home. Wallander is not officially involved but Håkan’s son is engaged to his daughter Linda. A few months earlier Håkan was eager to talk to Kurt about a controversial incident from his past. Could this be connected to his disappearance?
When Håkan’s wife also goes missing, Wallander is determined to uncover the truth, but the investigation will force him to look back over his own past as he comes to the unsettling realisation that even those we love the most can remain strangers to us…
Kurt Wallander novellas:
When Wallander first appeared in Faceless Killers, he was a senior police officer, just turned forty, with his life in a mess. His wife had left him, his father barely acknowledged him; he ate badly and drank alone at night.
The Pyramid chronicles the events that led him to such a place. We see him on his very first case, new to the police force and trying to solve a murder off-duty; we witness the beginnings of his fragile relationship with Mona, the woman he has his heart set on marrying; we learn the reason behind his difficulties with his father. These tales give fascinating insights into Wallander’s character, from the stabbing of a neighbour in 1969 to a light aircraft accident in 1989, every story is a vital piece of the Wallander series, showing Mankell at the top of his game.
Wallander’s life looks like it has taken a turn for the better when his offer on a new house is accepted, only for him to uncover something unexpected in the garden – the skeleton of a middle-aged woman.
As police officers comb the property, Wallander attempts to get his new life back on course by finding the woman’s killer with the aid of his daughter, Linda. But when another discovery is made in the garden, Wallander is forced to delve further back into the area’s past.
There you have it – Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander books in order! How many have you read? Let us know in the comments below…