Wallander’s Geographical World
Henning Mankell’s writing is renowned for evoking a strong sense of place.
This is particularly evident in his books featuring Kurt Wallander, which are set primarily in Sweden. Many of these locations exist in real life, but others are entirely fictitious. In some instances, a murder may have been committed in a real setting, but with the map altered slightly – perhaps with an additional road leading off to the left – so that it is not possible to pin down the exact spot. Whatever the case, the locations featured can play a central role in Wallander’s life. The places described below are particularly important.
THE POLICE STATION
This is the hub of Wallander’s world. Though its location is not stated in any of the books, the address is, in fact, number 51 Kristianstadsvägen. How Kurt Wallander gets there every morning, however, is not clear…
In ‘The Man with the Mask’, a story in The Pyramid, Kurt Wallander has decided to move to a three-roomed flat in the centre of Ystad with his family, because his wife Mona wants their daughter Linda to grow up in a town smaller than Malmö. Wallander realises that doing so will not be great for his career, but feels that it is necessary to move even so.
As an adult, Linda returns home to Kurt in Mariagatan – included in Before the Frost and An Event in Autumn – by which time she is a fully trained police officer and is expecting to move into a flat of her own in Ystad.
In addition to various hot dog stalls and kebab establishments in the neighbourhood, Wallander also finds sustenance at:
Sweden’s oldest hotel is a frequent backdrop for events in Wallander’s universe: in Faceless Killers, Wallander and the prosecutor Anette Brolin enjoy a salted salmon meal here; The Dogs of Riga sees the detective giving a lecture to the local Rotary Club at the hotel; every year it plays host to the Christmas party for the Ystad police force. In real life, the hotel opened in 1829, and those who have stayed there include August Strindberg, Dag Hammarskjöld and Patti Smith – the latter of whom visited during the autumn of 2012 and wandered around in Wallander’s footsteps.
ISTVÁN KECSKEMÉTI’S PIZZERIA
Located in Hamngatan, Wallander often has dinner here when he can’t face up to preparing supper himself. In The White Lioness, he and Linda drive here for a meal together.
Denmark’s capital city is an important place in Wallander land. Shortly before ‘Wallander’s First Case’, as featured in The Pyramid, Wallander meets Mona on the ferry between Copenhagen and Malmö. In the same collection of stories, he encounters the sailor Jespersen over and over again in bars and restaurants in the city.
Faceless Killers sees Wallander making an opera trip to The Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, and in One Step Behind, the young people who are murdered hire their 18th-century costumes at Holmsted’s fancy dress shop in the city.
In Before the Frost, the trail leads to a certain Frans Vigsten who lives at Nedergade 12 in Copenhagen. Linda goes there to speak to him, but is attacked and beaten up on the stairs.
Wallander spends some of his best and worst days in Skagen, at the northernmost tip of Jutland. He travels there with Mona and the newly-born Linda, and in The Man Who Smiled, Wallander looks back on that time as one of the happiest periods of his life.
In The Man Who Smiled, Wallander returns repeatedly to Skagen, walking the beaches and trying to come to terms with the fallout of his actions in The White Lioness. He sets up his own private police district along the Skagen beaches, patrolling daily while wondering whether he can continue his life as a police officer.
Coincidentally (or not), Wallander’s great-grandfather died not far from Skagen in 1851. He drowned when the ship he was sailing on broke its rudder and was blown towards the town during a storm.
Mossby Strand is the site of a myriad of emotional episodes in the detective’s life: this is where he tries to reconcile himself with Mona when she wants a divorce, where he used to take Linda when she was a little girl, and it is here that his daughter informs him of both her application to the Police College and her pregnancy.
Wallander frequently travels to the little coastal village of Kåseberga to find peace and quiet, gaze out over the sea and buy smoked fish in the harbour. But this is also a spot where events of a decidedly less wholesome nature take place: The White Lioness sees an encounter with the Russian Vladimir Rykoff, which ends in two fatal shots being fired.
The Gryt Archipelago
The Gryt archipelago is located on the edge of Kolmården in Östergötland, and it is the location for the denouement of The Troubled Man.
Where will we see Wallander next? Find out now in An Event in Autumn.