Book review: The Man from Beijing, by Henning Mankell

Jonathan just read The Man from Beijing, by Henning Mankell.

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I first came across Henning Mankell when I watched Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Kurt Wallander on TV.

I watched them all, and then realised the BBC was also showing the original Swedish Wallander films. I loved it so much that I devoured the Wallander novels until there were none left to read.

I put off reading any more Mankell novels because I couldn’t imagine a Mankell novel that wasn’t about Wallander, but I really enjoyed The Man from Beijing.

Opens with a horrible crime
It starts with a horrible crime committed in a village in the far north of Sweden. The local police have very little to go on, and are not portrayed sympathetically, perhaps because they simply can’t cope themselves with the enormity of the crime.

A judge in the south of Sweden called Birgitta Roslin hears about it and realises she has a connection to the village. As she becomes more involved in the investigation she gradually realises that she herself may be in danger.

The book opens up to railroad building North America in the nineteenth century, crosses the Pacific to China and then London, both in the past and the present.

Fascinating connections
In revealing the origin and the perpetrator of the crime Mankell reveals relationships across distance and time.

Birgitta discovers information about the murders that the investigating police do not want to think about, and as she follows up her leads she puts herself unknowingly in real jeopardy.

Well-drawn and credible characters
Mankell creates a set of well-drawn and credible characters that I cared for as I read, and I was strongly affected by the story.

As always Mankell holds up a fascinating mirror to Swedish society which allows us to make comparisons with our own. We live in a time when we are all interconnected and events and decisions taken around the world can have huge repercussions for us.

The sections of The Man from Beijing set in China show a picture of a country beginning to flex its muscles and take its new place in the world. It’s a sobering thought.

Friday, 7th December, 2012 9:28am

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3 Comments

  1. cynic's comment not rated yet. Add your vote Vote +1 Vote -1

    7.Dec.2012 10:07am

    The Swedish Wallander (the Branagh Wallender concentrated more on Branagh’s acting skills than the story as usual IMHO) and Henning Mankell are great favourites in our house. We also have read and enjoyed all the books.

    My wife liked the Beijing book but I just could not get on with it,lost interest a quarter of the way through and dumped it. Not enough time for all the books I want to read so I have become very selective. If it does not grab my attention from the start it gets discarded.

    But given this positive review, maybe I will try it again and persevere a little longer. :-))

    Reply
  2. septua's comment not rated yet. Add your vote Vote +1 Vote -1

    19.May.2013 12:59pm

    I recently picked up a copy of this book in a charity shop together with another Mankell book. I can understand to some degree why Cynic found it unreadable, but I couldn’t put it down. The time shifting can be a little confusing, but overall I found it interesting and readable, but it was a little difficult to fully comprehend the thinking of the killer – could anyone really think like that? Do try to read it again and persevere – it does have some interesting twists and turns.

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  3. Trevor's comment not rated yet. Add your vote Vote +1 Vote -1

    22.May.2013 7:53pm

    I am reading this atm and really enjoying it. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Reply

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