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on 22 December 2012
Another real corker from Henning Mankell. Kurt Wallander never disappoints as a detective even if his personal life is bleak and isolated. In this book he has just returned from a holiday in Italy and is quite upbeat at the start of the book. This soon changes with what is a gruesome murder, followed by what appear to be other unrelated murders, and by the end of the book Wallander is again on the verge of depression. Although we, the readers, know from the start of the book that the killer is a woman it takes Wallander some time to work it out. He is drawn down several cul-de-sacs before finally getting onto the right track and tracking the killer. An underlying theme throughout is his grief for his father and trying to work through his realtionship with him. A very satisfying novel with depth.
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on 19 August 2017
Great read
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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2004
What a refreshing change to find a real person in charge of an investigation rather than the larger than life comic book creations too common in the staple American detective fiction. As plots go, Mankell's "Fifth Woman" is far fetched but what makes it so absorbing and believeable is the painstaking procedural plodding by Inspector Wallender's team. It builds up an incredible mountain of forensic and circumstantial evidence, dead ends and red herrings which for a long time seem to lead nowhere. To a certain extent the reader is a step ahead, seeing also from the killer's perspective, so part of the book's fascination is the tension we feel when the clues become tantalisingly close to revealing the identity. Kurt Wallender is certainly an engaging and sympathetic character whose intuitive leaps are generally credible because he also gets his hands dirty, makes mistakes and shows real human frailties. The book is relentlessly paced and indeed hard to put down at times. "Sidetracked" and "One Step behind" are equally good in the series, "Faceless Killers" a bit below par, and avoid "Dogs of Riga" which is more a far fetched spy thriller.
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on 2 March 2003
The book was just absolutely fab. While a friend just bought the book a few weeks ago, we've both read it and managed to lose at least one night's sleep. It was so gripping that, as we neared the end, we just had to finish it. It's not the kind of "who done it?" suspense that keeps you going but the writing and the fact that you really want the crime to be over as you empathise for the exhausted Wallander. The focus of story is the crime and Mankell is so skillful a writer (and fair dues to Steven T. Murray for translation) that personalities and context are richly provided but do not distract from the story. I was devastated when I finished the book. I've since bought all the other books that I could get and can't wait to start reading them. I just can't recommend this book enough.
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on 29 September 2001
The human, all too human, Inspector Kurt Wallander is thrown up against personal and professional challenges in this worthy addition to a sucessful series.
In the bleakness of a Skane autumn, beautifully evoked, a serial killer is murdering men with the utmost barbarity. Wallander and his team investigate against the backdrop of a changing Sweden where the old certanties and social cohesion have gone and an unsure future awaits. In addition Wallander faces the uncertainties and decisions of his own life. Mankell has created a post-modern investigator who in addition to solving a brutal series of killings and prevent more deaths, must also confront his own existential problems.
The story-telling is effective, the plot tight, the round of police investigation (99 % hard routine work, 1 % brilliant deduction) is superby recreated. Very effective, very existential, very Swedish and very very good. Highly recommended
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on 13 March 2017
jo volt
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2007
yet there is method in 't." Hamlet: Act II, Scene 2.

Four nuns have been found brutally murdered in a convent in an unnamed North African country. A fifth woman has also been murdered. Although news of the murders is suppressed and the fifth woman is never publicly identified a policewoman with a conscience forwards letters found in her possession to her daughter in Sweden. Soon thereafter a series of seemingly unconnected and brutal murders grip the small, Southern-Swedish city of Ystad. The murders are well planned and executed. They seem designed to inflict as much pain as possible. Detective Inspect Kurt Wallander is tasked with identifying the killer or killers and the motive behind the killing. If Wallander cannot discover a motive he must at least learn enough about the killer's method to stop him or her before more people lay dead in strange surrounding. That is the plot of Henning Mankell's "The Fifth Woman".

"The Fifth Woman" is the sixth book in Mankell's Kurt Wallander series. This series is often compared to the Martin Beck detective mysteries authored by the husband and wife team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. Wallander, like Beck, is a police detective in Sweden. Unlike Beck, whose beat was Stockholm, Wallander works in the small southern-Swedish city of Ystad. The Wallander series takes place in the 1990s while the Beck series took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Although I tend to prefer the Beck series, the Wallander books are entertaining page-turners. Mankell stays well within the `police procedural' formula and has not tried to reinvent the genre. However, he has done a good job, through the first books in the series, of developing the character of Mankell and his supporting cast of characters. Wallander is no Sherlock Holmes and gets results more by perspiration than inspiration. He is also a fully drawn character. We see him dealing with the break-up of a marriage, an estranged daughter, and a father who is developing senile dementia. The supporting characters, particularly his fellow detectives, are also well drawn.

As the plot in "The Fifth Woman" plays itself out Mankell does a good job of showing the grunt work that goes into a murder investigation. Mankell also does a good job portraying the relationship of Wallander with his fellow police officers and with his family, especially his aged and failing father. Wallander is shown as a flawed man, a man with a temper and someone who can be more than a bit stubborn. However, I found myself drawn to the character as much for his flaws as for his detective skills.

The Fifth Woman is, in my opinion, one of the better books in the Wallander series and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone interested in a good police story, especially one set in a location outside the United States. Recommended. L. Fleisig

For those who prefer to read a detective series in chronological order this is the order of the Kurt Wallander series written by Henning Mankell. The dates listed are the dates of publication in Sweden.

Faceless Killers (1991)

The Dogs of Riga (1992)

The White Lioness (1993)

The Man Who Smiled (1994)

Sidetracked (1995)

The Fifth Woman (1996)

One Step Behind (1997)

Firewall (1998)

Before the Frost (Linda Wallander) - 2002
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on 15 January 2015
Henning is to writing what koolhaas is to architecture. Genius construct of a book. Patience required, like a difficult journey but rewarding upon arrival. A field trip awaits.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 July 2010
There is something utterly compelling about the Wallander books; once you've read one you just want more!
If you like your crime fiction to be gritty, realistic and presented without the rough bits edited out, then you will love these stories by Henning Mankell.
There are plenty of people who have described the story far better than I could, but I would encourage anyone who is a fan of crime and murder fiction to read at least one of his books, and this one is a great place to start.
You can read the books in chronological order (starting with Faceless Killers), and see how the characters develop, or just drop in at any point and still enjoy the stories.
Highly recommended - though I wouldn't like to live within 50 miles of anywhere that Wallander visits!
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on 1 October 2012
Henning Mankell has a very personal and highly distinguishable way of writing his stories. Its main characteristic is the juxtaposition between particularly gruesome crimes and the everyday slow, tedious, plodding reality of police work. His main protagonist, Inspector Kurt Wallander, is neither a superhero nor a magician. He is a regular guy, intelligent and dedicated, who has his work as the only "anchor" in an otherwise lonely existence. His results and successes are a product of hard work and hard work only.

Now, all this is perfectly illustrated in this novel. It's very well paced and meticulously planned. Every characteristic of Mankell's writing is present and everything seems to be in the right place.

There is a string of some very cruel and gruesome murders. Wallander quickly realises that it must be the work of the same killer and begins a long process of identifying him and eventually catching him. Mankell gives the reader glimpses of the killer's life and motivations, but he does not "give" anything to his hero. Every new "breakthrough" Wallander makes is hard earned and comes after long hours of work. He even makes a couple of mistakes and follows leads that go nowhere. In the same time a lot of things are happening in his personal life and it seems at times that his work is the only thing that keeps him going.

There are also a couple of other things worth mentioning:
First, Mankell, although active in a typically non-political literary genre, is a very politically active individual. In almost all of the novels that I have read he includes some kind of a "message" or "statement" in his plot. This is present here also. As for what it is, just read the novel and you'll figure it out (even a tired Wallander realises it in the end of the novel).
Second, although Mankell's books are as close to reality of police work as any crime fiction you'll ever read, there is thing that I find particularly hard to swallow. Others have mentioned it also and yes it's not very plausible to have all these horrible crimes, murders, conspiracies etc etc happening in a 20000 people town of Southern Sweden and its surrounding area. I live in a 20000 people town and we never even had a single murder!

Apart from that, everything else is perfect...
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