I’m gonna miss Kurt Wallander.
The brilliant yet troubled Swedish detective is making his last appearance — at least in book form — in “The Troubled Man,” which has recently hit U.S. bookstores. Swedish author Henning Mankell is wrapping up his best-selling series about Wallander, which has lasted for 10 novels. The award-winning series has been translated into about 40 languages and has sold millions of copies worldwide.
I haven’t read all of them; in fact, I first noticed Wallander on (gasp!) TV two years ago. The Wallander mysteries have been adapted into a PBS series starring acclaimed British actor Kenneth Branagh. It’s tough for a book critic to admit that he was turned onto reading a series by watching the boob tube. But it’s true.
The beauty of the Wallander series is the fact that the police detective has as much trouble battling himself as he does fighting crime and solving the mystery using unorthodox methods. Mankell goes deep into his psyche and explores the dark areas of the divorced dad of one daughter. Wallander is a richly created character who won’t soon be forgotten.
In his final mystery, “The Troubled Man,” Wallander stumbles upon a personal, emotional case. A retired, high-ranking Swedish naval officer, Hakan von Enke, vanishes during his daily walk in a forest
near Stockholm. A few weeks later, his wife disappears and then is found dead under mysterious circumstances. It’s personal for Wallander because his daughter is engaged to be married to the von Enke’s son. And she’s pregnant with Wallander’s first grandchild.
The case even gets more complicated. As a former Swedish submarine commander, von Enke was deeply involved in Cold War espionage activities. He was obsessed with an incident in the early 1980s involving the detection of Soviet submarines in Swedish waters. The Cold War has been over for about 20 years, but the consequences from that troubled era continue to haunt von Enke, the Swedish government and others.
Wallander jumps in to solve the case, even though he’s suspended from the Ystad police force. During the investigation, he examines his own past and his successes and failures. He’s turning 60, is battling health issues and sees "(death) in the mirror every morning."
"Fear came and went in waves," while Wallander tried to fall asleep one late night. "His heart was full of sorrow at the thought that so much of his life was now over and could never be relived."
He calls himself “a thoroughly pathetic figure” but he’s determined to solve the case and become a better father (and soon-to-be grandfather) figure to his family.
“The Troubled Man,” which was translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson, isn’t an easy novel to digest. It has dark overtones and is lacquered in sadness. But there are some stunning plot twists and plenty of intrigue. At the very end, Wallander … well, I can’t say what happens. No matter. Wallander fans should be pleased as the curtain closes on Mankell’s dynamic mystery series.