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"Though this be madness,
This review is from: The Fifth Woman: Kurt Wallander (Paperback)
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)
The Fifth Woman (1996)
One Step Behind (1997)
Before the Frost (Linda Wallander) - 2002