Review - An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell

Sunday Aug 17 2014
by Jack

In 2004 a Dutch company decided on a give-away.  With every purchase of a crime novel, the buyer would get one free.  The Swedish author Henning Mankell was commissioned to write the freebie.  He produced a short book featuring his famous detective Kurt Wallender, its length halfway between a novella and a full-length novel.  Although published in 2004, the author tells us that An Event in Autumn is set not long before the action in the 2011 novel A Troubled Man.  The “autumn” in the title apparently refers not only to the time of the year in which the book is set, but to the time of life of the detective.  He is reflective, querulous, and restless, conscious that he has been a cop for a long time and that life is rapidly passing by him.  He is eager for a change, and is attracted by the chance to buy an old farmhouse out of town being offered to him by a colleague, who is responsible for its sale.  Wallender visits the farmhouse, and likes it a lot.  There is only one problem.  In the back garden he spies a skeletal human hand sticking out of the ground.  The garden is excavated and the digging leads to a corpse.  The pathologist says the corpse is probably fifty or more years old, and that it died of strangulation, which probably means murder.  Wallender pursues this cold case throughout the autumn, unearthing much about the history of the house and its inhabitants.  Eventually he tracks down the culprit and solves the crime.  The story is considerably enlivened and enhanced by the interplay between Wallender and his daughter, Linda, who makes a substantial appearance in the book.  The novel usefully contains an afterward about the origins of the book, which ominously concludes, “There are no more stories about Kurl Wallender.”  It also contains a short essay by Mankell reminiscing about his relationship with his best-known character, whom the author admits shares a good many of his health problems and personality quirks with his creator.  This essay also offers the faint hope of stories about Linda Wallender, although Mankell admits that his remaining time is short.

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