Henning Mankell is best known for having created fictional detective Kurt Wallander, a character I am familiar with via a couple of BBC adaptations of Mankell’s work. Wallander is typical of the genre, I suppose. He is another of those broken down, older detectives whose personal life is in ruins but who gamely carries on with catching the local bad guys. It is all very dark and moody, but I almost always take to that type of atmosphere and character and that is what I expected to get from The Man from Beijing.
And, at first, that is what I got. The story opens at the scene of a spectacular mass murder in one of Sweden’s most isolated little villages. All but three of the village’s twenty-two inhabitants have been brutally slaughtered in just a few hours and police are struggling to identify either a motive for the murders or a suspect. When Judge Birgitta Roslin, who is on a two-week medical leave from the bench, realizes that this is the same village her mother was raised in, she decides to go there for a personal look. Once there, and sensing that the police investigation is headed in the wrong direction, Roslin begins her own - an investigation that leads her to believe that a Chinese assassin is responsible for the deaths.
Butting heads with the local police, however, proves to be rather fruitless, so Roslin continues to nose around on her own. Her amateur investigation brings her all the way to China where her efforts attract the attention of the wrong people. Just happy to escape Beijing in one piece, Roslin returns to Sweden only to find that her Chinese troubles have followed her home.
This is a good book gone very, very bad. It reads more as an excuse for Mankell to preach his own leftist political views than as a book to be enjoyed by mystery/thriller fans. Had The Man from Beijing been properly edited, it could have been a gripping police procedural about a stunning crime. As is, it is a tremendous bore about a stunning crime.
Rated at: 1.5