The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell


The Man Who Smiled is one of Mankell’s Kurt Wallender police novels. I enjoy an occasional police procedural but it is probably not one of my favorite genres. Over the past two years I have been working my way through Mankell’s books and this is the third novel, and the second Wallender I have read. I have not been reading them in order, which is probably a mistake, but they work well as standalone books, and you do not need the past books to enjoy any one novel.

I have very mixed feelings on the book. It seemed a bit flat and rushed. I don’t plan to give away the plot but will mention a few things that are on the cover or in reviews. I understand about the main characters anguish and despair, but everything appears so colorless as if his personal feelings overshadow everything about the story, including weather.

One of the plot twists, and a key one, seems to me, to be unbelievable. Then once he gets involved in the investigation he does a number of not only unorthodox moves, but ones that really leave you scratching your head. The villain is almost out of a comic book. The clues don’t really seem to add up and the end really has a rushed and implausible feel to it. I wonder if the author had a contract with his publisher that required a certain number of books over a set period, because this has the feel of a book that needed to be written, rather than one that has a well developed plot.

I am going to read The Dogs of Riga, another Wallender book that was written previous to The Man Who Smiled and see if they are the same style. Since it has been a few years since I read my last one maybe I just do not have a clear memory of the previous books.

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