3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2013
I am of the minority , that I love Mankells books but not the Wallander series [ Kenneth Branagh and the ghastly BBC programme just ruined any chance of love there ] . I find Mankells other books brilliant , yes they are not always the most realistic but I want fiction , I want to be entertained , I wanted to be thrilled , fascinated and kept on the edge of my seat . If I wanted just a factually accurate account of a crime then I would read a true crime expose .
From the brutal shocking village of the dead this story had me gripped . I loved the historical detail of American rail roads built on the ribs of the Chinese workers and the strand of revenge running through . The judge Birgitta is yet another strong scandi heroine , a mature woman who doesn't need to have heels and lip gloss . Plus I always admire that Mankell manages to let his political stance shine through the action . I have read this book twice now and its vision about those who are enslaved and fight back for justice shines .
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2011
There was a lot going on in this book. The Swedish mass murders, the historical Chinese at the railroad and the Chinese/Africa stuff starring Mr Hero Mugabe. Two and Three in this saga were tedious to say the least. Quite early on it was obvious the murders were in revenge for the wickedness of the ancestor who appeared in part 2. The instigator of the plot to do the killing would have been a gift to the genealogists of "Who do you think you are?": imagine finding all the descendants conveniently living together in a remote village so that they could be knocked off in one fell swoop. There were other irritations: I think I'll go to China tomorrow as I just happen to have a friend going there and as I'm on sick leave, I'll join her. Visa? What visa? Oh never mind, they won't notice. Then Birgitta recognises a building in Beijing that was in the brochure left behind by the Chinese man in the hotel in Sweden and when she shows his photo he is recognised at once. Must have been a terrific likeness despite being on an amateur video link of some sort. And what was the significance of the boy who was done to death less brutally than the rest of the descendants of the cruel overseer? Why were we not told? Likewise the red ribbon? What was that about? And the point of the freelance reporter who kept popping up? As Birgitta never told anybody about her mishaps, I think I have the answer. It was all the deluded imaginings of a failed revolutionary and bored middle aged judge. No wonder Staffan had his problems. And that's another story.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2010
Henning Mankell is a favourite author of mine. In particular I do like the Wallander series but he does write other very good books as well! That said, I was disappointed by "The Man from Beijing". Of course it is well written (and translated) but there were too many loose ends for my liking. As a work of fiction the reader is required to suspend some element of belief but how much depends on the genre - for example, science fiction cannot work if reality is not suspended to a large extent. Henning's latest offering (in part) deals with police procedure and the judiciary. Thus, the plot needs to be more grounded and realistic.
So, do I recommend the book? Absolutely. Mankell fans will need no persuasion to read this offering. It is those who are new to the author I worry about. If they are disappointed by this novel, they may never get round to reading his other books - which would be a great shame. However, if they do like this one, they can look forward to his other (better) novels.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2013
This is more a novel in which crime happens than a true crime novel in my opinion. There is an awful mass murder at the beginning and we do find out who did it and other crimes occur too but in the process we get an enormous amount of background about the relationship between the Chinese and the West, particularly the US with reference to Chinese labour on the transcontinental railroad being driven across the continent from the West Coast in the nineteenth century and the way the labourers were mistreated - with dreadful consequences for the present in the case in hand. Also we get to hear about current Chinese politics and the relationship between China and Africa and additionally about the effect of time and reality on former Maoist sympathisers in the West in the form of our protagonist and her friend. All through Mankell's interpretation, of course. I find his treatment of Mugabe and the relationship between Mugabe and the British to be, to say the least, controversial so I'm a bit suspicious of what he writes about modern China. Certainly Mankell sees the world through pink, if not red, tinted spectacles. Nevertheless, the book is nothing if not thought provoking. But if you are looking for a police procedural along the lines of the Wallander books, this isn't it. We are not far into the book before we know whodunnit, by the way.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2011
I bought this book because I would buy anything Henning Mankell wrote. I have thoroughly enjoyed every other book of his that I have read, which is why this book is a big disappointment. It starts off really well, a real page turner. A horrendous crime and the only clue a piece of red ribbon. Then suddenly, it all stops and the scene shifts to the story of some Chinese brothers in the 1800s trying to escape from their village. There is little character development, the story is bald and you begin to wonder what on earth it has to do with the first part. The mystery and suspense of the story disappears early on in the book as you know who did it and why. From there on, it just fizzles out. I found the rest of the book mundane and third rate. There were just too many unbelievable coincidences and too much politicising (eg Mankell uses one of his characters to put over a political view he has expounded personally elsewhere that the problems in Zimbabwe are to some extent down to the white farmers and that Mugabe is misunderstood by the West.) The motive for the murders, a kind of ancestor revenge is just not credible. Why pick on that family for revenge when nearer to home there were Chinese people who seemingly did worse things to the ancestors? And I'm sure not even Swedes can just hop on a plane to Beijing without applying for a visa (yes I know, reality slows down the plot). And in the end, the relevance of the piece of red ribbon is never explained. I find it hard to believe this book was written by the same person who wrote the Wallander books.
37 of 46 people found the following review helpful
I was impressed by this book, though it took me a while to get into. There are numerous shifts of character, place and time, from 21st century Sweden, where the (first) crime takes place, to 19th century China, USA in the 1860s, modern China and even Africa.
At the start it looks as though this is going to be a "normal" detective story (I hadn't read any Mankell before so wasn't quite sure what to expect). Vivi Sundberg will investigate the crime. Oh, here comes a maverick judge - Birgitta Roslin - who has a connection with the victims and wants to get involved - so they'll bounce off each other but eventually get to the bottom of it. As soon as I thought I'd got it nailed down, though, and sat back to enjoy, it began to skid around. Sundberg more or less disappears. We hear almost nothing about the investigation. (How can Mankell waste that character? I want to hear more about her!)
The story is like quicksilver - we leap back to the 1860s, and see what's behind the crime, then fast forward to modern China then divert to Africa. Because, fundamentally, this is more than just a crime story, it's something quite different. Mankell shows us China in three centuries - first dominated by the West in the 19th, then waking up in the 20th, then - that's where it gets interesting. In the 21st, will it turn into a coloniser, and use its new found wealth to take revenge for the past? Will it find another way? The book neatly illustrates that choice. At times it reads like an essay on the future of China (which means, a point repeatedly made, the future of us all). But it remains gripping - I think that few writers would succeed in keeping the book interesting, keeping the story going, at the same, but Mankell does.
As I said, it's a lot more than a crime story, though it is that, and it has all of the tension and suspense you could ask for, especially the ending which - in keeping with the globe hopping nature of the rest of the book - takes place in London.
I'll definitely read more Mankell after this.
on 20 March 2015
I'm glad I wasn't persuaded by a lot of the negative reviews to give this book a miss. It was well written and descriptive in Henning Mankells familiar style but think it goes that bit further due to the excellent translation. A lot of reviewers have laboured the point about Mankells continual reference to the history of enforced Chinese labour and Maos communist regime. Both references are intrinsic to the heart of the story and motive for the barbaric killings at the start of the novel. None of the history detracts from the story but more so adds to it and explains the motivation behind the killing. I really enjoyed reading about the 'historical' side to the novel. I didn't consider the storyline far fetched at all. Birgittas character was well defined and I really enjoyed the descriptive novels in the novel. This is a recommended read.
on 2 September 2013
Having read several works by Mankel and appreciated his insights into character and politics I found that this novel seemed far fetched (although global politics can be) but more importantly I was irritated by the principle character - the prosecutor. Whilst all of us can behave in contradictory inconsistent ways I did not find Brigitte to be a credible character. She seemed to be rather foolish to be a prosecutor but maybe that is a sad but true reflection on law practitioners.The explanations of Chinese political expansion in Africa may be well intentioned and well grounded but they felt didactic and had none of the nuance I associate with his other novels. However I shall continue to read his work as on the whole I have much admired and enjoyed it
on 13 February 2015
I love Henning Mankell's Wallander books, so - particularly as a European living in Beijing - I was looking forward to trying this one. However, as someone who lives in Beijing and speaks Chinese, the parts relating to China were very disappointing. Simple things like names, as well as more complex things like how people speak and act, were very unrealistic - a resounding lack of authenticity which could have been helped vastly by getting a Chinese person or Chinese-speaking foreigner to check things. It felt a bit like going to your favourite coffee shop and being served a cup of lukewarm weak Nescafe instant instead of freshly ground beans..
on 8 June 2013
I bought this because I have read every Wallander book and enjoyed them, so thought I would try another book by Mankell.
However, the plot was so labyrinthine and tortuous, it was like reading a text book
At times, it got very heavy and frankly boring.
Throw in a bit about China, Africa,Mugabe and American railroads and you begin to wonder what all this has to do with a Swedish judge and a load of murders in Northern Sweden.
This is one book you WILL want to put down, if only to let your brain recover while you summon up the stamina to carry on.