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Mystery Monday Review – The Pyramid: The First Wallander Cases

The Pyramid: The First Wallander Cases by Henning Makell

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

When it comes to reading mysteries, there comes a time when the jaded reader must just read something new. So I got this through PBS, not knowing the series hero at all.

It appears that this 1999 book is the origin story of series hero Kurt Wallander, set at the beginning of his law-enforcement career in 1969 when he was only a twenty-something police officer in Ystad, an old town on Sweden’s southern coast, famous for its medieval town center with cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses. Young Kurt has a keen sense of what’s proper and tends to brood – neither of which are strange, considering he’s Swedish. His father, an artist and bully, gives him guff for his career choice and passive-aggressively sells his house – Kurt’s childhood home – without even telling Kurt where he’s moving. And look up “high maintenance girlfriend” in the dictionary and see a picture of Kurt’s girlfriend Mona.

This book collects five pieces, thee short stories and two novellas. As is typical in noir police procedurals since the 1980s, the author sets the homicide investigators in the socio-economic conditions in which crimes are committed. “How could anybody be so alone,” Kurt wonders as he finds out more about the bleak daily life of an elderly neighbor whose death he is investigating.

These stories reminded me of Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano novels. The protagonists live in traditionally close-knit societies, with a strong sense of belonging and value on acting in such a way that one can present a respectable face in society. Ystad, Sweden and Vigata, Sicily are situated far from national cauldrons of change in politics, fashion, education, publishing, entertainment, or economy but their cultures are fraying. Mankell and Camilleri seamlessly weave into the plots anxiety shared by many ordinary people, who feel the old ways are showing signs of strain, that if they want things to stay the same, things are going to have to change.





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