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on 8 December 2002
Kurt Wallender, a Swedish detective, is faced with a race to find a serial killer before he or she strikes again. The first grisly murder is an elderly birdwatcher found impaled on bamboo sticks in a tiger pit, but for those of a sensitive disposition, the subsequent murders are not so gruesome.
We know the identity of the killer from the beginning but can Wallender find out before more people die? This tightly plotted novel shows the utter weariness and drudgery of the police search while keeping us gripped enough to keep turning the pages until 1am!!
Wallender's love life is on the back burner in this novel, but the death of his father provides the emotional subtheme. For those who aren't yet Wallender fans, you soon will be and for those coming back for more - you won't be disappointed, this is the best one yet.
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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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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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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 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 21 January 2013
Am working my way through the Henning Mankell books in the Wallander series and am enjoying this one just as much as the previous ones I have read.
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VINE VOICEon 23 August 2007
Firstly I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Its the 6th Kurt Wallender book and all of them have been very enjoyable. This one especially so.

It is best to read the books in sequence (see the previous review). That way you get to understand the mind of Wallender, why things get him down, weary, his thoughts on colleagues and friends. It also helps you realise why in this story Wallender at times becomes angry, stubborn and annoyed at vigilante groups springing up around the Ystad area.

I now consider these books like an old friend. You look forwad to seeing them, miss them when you are not reading them, like them even though the characters have their own flaws.

If you like an extremely well written police mystery then these books are for you.
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on 24 October 2016
Huge fan of Mankell.

Loved the whole Kurt Wallander series which has set me off on reading many other authors from Sweden. Love the Swedish crime setting.
Thank you Henning Mankell, RIP
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on 19 April 2016
I really enjoy the Wallander series, like the Bosch series the central character has an interesting and complex perspective on his work, and deep insights into behaviour, his own included. Tightly written, but not in that staccato manner of other crime writers, and well paced to set out the challenges of investigations, it makes excellent reading.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 December 2003
The Kurt Wallander series gets better as it goes along, though getting to know Wallander certainly helps. His character is developed quite nicely.
In this book, Wallander is tantalisingly close to the solution, but never quite close enough to stop the next horrific murder. As always, the logical process of the investigation is brilliantly described and Wallander's journey through it, and the effect it has on his personal life, skilfully interwoven.
Again, as always, the Skåne landscape is an integral part of the novel, and I've started to have a distinct desire to go there myself.
The Fifth Woman is perfectly paced, with a gripping rush of adrenaline as the investigation comes to a finale and an interesting postscript in the form of Kurt's conversations with the killer after their arrest.
This is the best in the series up to this point.
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