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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 8 January 2004
It's hard to say what the attraction is about the Kurt Wallander series: They're not whodunnits; the stories can be as grim as the Southern Swedish landscape where they are set; there's no redeeming humour and the hero is just a normal policeman with no special quirks or character traits. There is nevertheless something remarkably compelling about them. The latest offering, Firewall, is no exception.
Inspector Wallander is a police inspector in Ystaad, Southern Sweden. As usual, he is in despair at what he sees as the gradual erosion of any sort of values in modern swedish society. He is confronted by an appalling example of this when two teenage girls are arrested for the brutal murder of a taxi driver and confess to the crime showing absolutely no signs of remorse. On the same evening a seemingly fit and healthy man drops dead in front of a cash machine, seemingly of natural causes. However, one of the girls escapes from custody and then there's another gruesome episode which seems to link the two events. The plot develops from here with Wallander attempting to piece together what really is behind it all.
The chronology of the series of novels is sometimes hard to follow as the books weren't translated in the order that they were written. If you haven't read any of these before then I would recommend that you start with an earlier novel. This one is actually set after Sidetracked, that is later than any that have so far been translated. The novels stand alone but there are references to events in earlier books. Nothing that spoils any plot however, but it is better to read them in the order they were written.
If you have read these books before then this one is back with what Mankell does best. I was a little disappointed with "Dogs of Riga" and "White Lioness" simply because they seemed to veer away from police procedural and into thriller territory. Firewall is more like "The Fifth Woman" and "Sidetracked". The reader gets to see the story mainly from Wallander's point of view but there is also some things seen from the criminal's eye, to put the reader slightly ahead of the police, but still not in the whole picture. You can never be sure where the investigation is going to lead to. Despite what I said earlier there's plenty of action too.
I also think that Mankell gets the mix of Wallander's private and professional life about right. There's enough to make the detective interesting as a human being but without being too much of a diversion from the meat of the book. As usual Wallander spends most of the book tired, bad-tempered and at the end of his tether and has very little time for a private life anyway. This case has a bit more office politics in it than in previous novels.
In general, the book seems very realistic, although I would say that artistic licence has been stretched a bit in a few places. Some things are never explained, which in some way adds to the realism because I'm sure in real life cases are not as neatly wrapped up in a bundle as conveniently as they are in most mystery stories. However I'm not entirely convinced by the criminal's behaviour at certain points. These are only minor grumbles. I see no letting up in the quality of the overall series with this entry. I find it really hard to compare these works to any other detective fiction availabe at the moment. Wallander might be a bit of a misery, but I'm keen to see what the future holds for him. I eagerly await the next translation.
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I'm now going to make a broad statement: Mankell's Wallander books form the best detective series that has ever been written. Ever. Michael Ondatje seems to concur, which is just lovely.
Firewall is the 8th full-length novel in the series, and also the last. In the next novel, Wallander retires and we follow the exploits of his daughter Linda, who has also joined the police force. Knowing it was the last was a great shame, because it is also, probably, the very best of this incredibly, astoundingly fine series. At the close of each chapter sadness broke over me like a wave. Wallander may not be the most cheerful company, but he is charming and the most endearing of current detective. Mankell's style is also part of the reason why every single sentence is so spellbinding. I can't say why, I don't know exactly what it is about the way he writes that is so special, but nor do I want to. Like seeing how a magician performs his tricks, that may spoil it a little.
Part of the reason why it's all so engrossing is Mankell's mixture of details. Indeed, he depicts a level of procedural detail that should be all rights be dull, but is instead riveting. The reasons for this a re two: Mankell's superb prose, and the very real impression he has created through the entire series that the crucial breakthrough, the information which might crack the case wide open, could come from absolutely anywhere, from the most mundane of tasks.
Also, it may be true that Wallander is somewhat the stereotypical loner (although like them all he has things about him which make him truly original), the police-force background is not at all stereotypical. Unlike many series where the cop seems to constantly go it alone, Mankell creates a unique sense of teamwork, that I don't think I've ever come across before. There's a warmth in the team which surrounds Wallander, and the way they work together. He doesn't have a particularly antagonistic boss, or any colleague he particularly dislikes. They all play their part, they all play their role in a cohesive policing team, and it's a joy to watch it as it works. Mankell knows that otherwise his series may be just TOO bleak and depressing, so the team exists in a happy unity which is far more realistic.
As you may have guessed, I adore this series. Wallander is a superb protagonist, and while just now I said he was the stereotypical loner, in all honesty he isn't. He's actually completely different to his counterparts Bosch and Rebus, etc. Instead of being the attractive loner, he is REAL, he is HUMAN. He gets angry properly (rather than Rebus would), like a child - in Firewall his frustration becomes such that he snaps and throws a chair across a colleague's office. There isn't a single investigator like him.
Do yourself a favour - read this series. Don't start here (Faceless Killers is the first). It isn't for everybody, but serious fans of crime fiction cannot afford to pass it by.
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on 11 February 2010
This is the eighth of the Wallander novels. As usual, Mankell builds and maintains the tension of his story through the twists and turns of an investigation into a series of deaths. Though another round of multiple deaths (if not serial killing) in the same area of Southern Sweden stretches credibility, the pace and cleverness of the writing win out. One of Mankell's recognisable devices is to use a lot of dramatic irony - the reader knows what Wallander is just missing in his investigation, and we read with interest (mostly) as he discovers the links which solve the problem. Wallander's musing on Sweden's putative societal breakdown (the end of the golden age of welfare and the rise of a more feral social fabric) leaves the reader not quite knowing where Wallander's politics lie. But this is all to the good - enough is left unsaid to retain interest in the undertow, as well as in the main plot of the novel. A very good read indeed - if you like procedural detective fiction.
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on 28 January 2016
I can't say I was very taken by this book. I have read several in the series and thought I quite liked them, but each time I read another one I seem to enjoy it less. Purely subjective I expect; it seems to take such a long time to get anywhere and is full of the usual gloomy introspection and depressing characters. Wallander is a hard man to like, you may sometimes admire his courage, but he's basically quite self-centred and you just can't see any woman putting up with him. All those pointlessly sleepless nights, bad temper, self-analysis and tedious brooding on the relationships he always manages to wreck - no wonder his daughter is as cold-blooded and selfish as she appears to be. So for me, not one of those books you really ever want to read again.
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on 25 September 2006
This was my first Mankell book and i couldn't put it down. Excellent pace, great plot, intriguing characters VERY well written. I'm now reading the White Lioness (written a couple of years before) and you can tell that Mankells writing has improved slightly in this time...... future books, i'm sure, will be even better.

A MUST READ BOOK
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VINE VOICEon 23 December 2014
.......and spills coffee all down his trousers. That's what I like about Wallander. He's an old fart like me, but with more tenacity when it comes to grappling with complex, blood-curdling crimes, dodging bullets and outwitting dark, unseen forces. This was a particularly complex plot with many strands, some of which were tied up at the end and some of which weren't, but that's life. I've read several Wallander books, completely out of sequence, and this was one of the best. Don't worry if you haven't read any of the earlier ones; each one is a self-contained story. There are references to previous stories, but that's OK. For example, there are references to "The Dogs of Riga", but this is an inferior story, not to be read just for the sake of reading the books in sequence. All of the Wallander stories are far-fetched escapism, which is fine by me. I have no sympathy with those who bellyache about their being unrealistic or lacking in technical accuracy. They are to be read primarily as entertainment. One aspect of the books that I like is the unfolding of Wallander's private, family life. The 'back story' in "Firewall" is particularly interesting, and helps to create a sympathetic, credible hero, though not one who is without his flaws. The individuality of the other officers in his team also stands out particularly well in this book. If you want to read just one Wallander book, you could do worse than choosing this one.
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on 21 June 2009
The twists and turns come thick and fast in this book and the nearer you get to the end, the harder it is to put down. It's well written with very good descriptions and some wonderfully insightful lines and, you can't help feeling a degree of empathy with Wallender and liking his character. I would recommend reading Sidetracked before reading Firewall, as his demeanor and relationship with other characters, especially his daughter, will make more sense.

You would probably like this book if you like Inspector Wexford, Inspector Frost, that kind of thing. (Although Wallender doesn't have as much humour as Frost).
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on 30 November 2008
This could be slander, but I suspect Henning Mankell doesn't know much about technology. Or at least he probably knows how to work a computer, but doesn't know how to hack into internationally important institutions, such as the Pentagon. There are occasional moments throughout Firewall where it seems like he is avoiding giving the reader a detailed explanation of the criminals' activities ostensibly because Wallander, the detective who will be brought to life tomorrow by Kenneth Branagh, is a bit of a technophobe. It happens so much, though, that it feels like a bit of a get-out clause and the nature of the threat the Swedish police are facing never really comes across.

Wallander also leaps to some pretty hefty conclusions and miraculously dodges more than his fair share of bullets, which was disappointing after the excellence of Faceless Killers, the only other book I've read by Henning Mankell. There were a few too many coincidences and it felt as if the author never really had full control of his plot.

Say what you like about Agatha Christie, but there is always a certain element of satisfaction on reaching the end of one of her novels. Everything is tied up neatly, and you know exactly what happened and why. While modern detective fiction is by definition not so clear-cut as that, this book feels messy and requires too much suspension of disbelief to be a really satisfying read.

It's a shame - the characters are still as real and interesting as before, and I did want to keep on turning to find out what happened, but this is not one of Mankell's best.
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on 20 May 2016
As usual, Henning Mankell has given us a brilliant,exciting adventure. Wallander's daughter, Linda is about to start her first duties as a policewoman when a friend goes missing. The story becomes full of twists and turns. Well worth the read.
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I'm now going to make a broad statement: Mankell's Wallander books form the best detective series that has ever been written. Ever. Michael Ondatje seems to concur, which is just lovely.
Firewall is the 8th full-length novel in the series, and also the last. In the next novel, Wallander retires and we follow the exploits of his daughter Linda, who has also joined the police force. Knowing it was the last was a great shame, because it is also, probably, the very best of this incredibly, astoundingly fine series. At the close of each chapter sadness broke over me like a wave. Wallander may not be the most cheerful company, but he is charming and the most endearing of current detective. Mankell's style is also part of the reason why every single sentence is so spellbinding. I can't say why, I don't know exactly what it is about the way he writes that is so special, but nor do I want to. Like seeing how a magician performs his tricks, that may spoil it a little.
Part of the reason why it's all so engrossing is Mankell's mixture of details. Indeed, he depicts a level of procedural detail that should be all rights be dull, but is instead riveting. The reasons for this a re two: Mankell's superb prose, and the very real impression he has created through the entire series that the crucial breakthrough, the information which might crack the case wide open, could come from absolutely anywhere, from the most mundane of tasks.
Also, it may be true that Wallander is somewhat the stereotypical loner (although like them all he has things about him which make him truly original), the police-force background is not at all stereotypical. Unlike many series where the cop seems to constantly go it alone, Mankell creates a unique sense of teamwork, that I don't think I've ever come across before. There's a warmth in the team which surrounds Wallander, and the way they work together. He doesn't have a particularly antagonistic boss, or any colleague he particularly dislikes. They all play their part, they all play their role in a cohesive policing team, and it's a joy to watch it as it works. Mankell knows that otherwise his series may be just TOO bleak and depressing, so the team exists in a happy unity which is far more realistic.
As you may have guessed, I adore this series. Wallander is a superb protagonist, and while just now I said he was the stereotypical loner, in all honesty he isn't. He's actually completely different to his counterparts Bosch and Rebus, etc. Instead of being the attractive loner, he is REAL, he is HUMAN. He gets angry properly (rather than Rebus would), like a child - in Firewall his frustration becomes such that he snaps and throws a chair across a colleague's office. There isn't a single investigator like him.
Do yourself a favour - read this series. Don't start here (Faceless Killers is the first). It isn't for everybody, but serious fans of crime fiction cannot afford to pass it by.
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