An unmarked life raft containing two dead bodies is washed up on the shores near Ystad. Post mortem reveals that both men were killed after subjecting them to torture. Wallander is certain that this is one of those difficult cases that promise nothing but frustration and headache for the police right from the beginning.
After Faceless Killers I set out with very high expectations about The Dogs of Riga. The book starts on a promising note but then suddenly changes track and becomes an international conspiracy thriller. It is set in 1991 when the mighty USSR is going through turmoil. Baltic nations are pressing hard for freedom.
Investigation soon uncovers that the raft may have come all the way from Latvia. Major Liepa from Riga’s police department comes to Sweden to help the investigation. He establishes that the dead men belonged to mafia and hints at a larger conspiracy at work in his homeland. Major Liepa is murdered on the same day he returns from Sweden and Wallander is sent to Riga to assist in his murder investigation.
Things become stranger and stranger as Wallander realises that higher echelon of the Riga police is also a part of the shady world. The nexus between police, underworld, politicians and their Russian masters is so complicated that it is impossible to separate truth from lies. There are shadows always watching him. Wallander is drawn to the dead major’s widow and soon learns that she is a member of a secret organisation working for Latvia’s freedom.
Soon Major Liepa’s murder is conveniently solved and Wallander is sent back to Sweden. But he is persuaded by the organisation to return to Riga, this time secretly. What follows is a nightmare as he gets entangled in a horrific crackdown of the organisation by the police. Finally Wallander manages to lay his hands on the documents that contained the proof of Major Liepa’s covert investigation of his superiors. He succeeds in finding the guilty major in the nick of time and barely manages to survive after a gun fight on a rooftop when his enemy’s enemy comes to his rescue.
I had hard time believing the plot especially after the original investigation is side tracked and the story shifts to Riga. The conspiracy to keep Latvia under Russian rule seemed far-fetched. I also did not understand why Wallander would be called to Riga for a crime that has taken place on Latvian soil is completely under the purview of Riga’s police force. Mankell who is adept at using the rural Swedish background looks uncomfortable describing Latvia and most of the events and journeys happen at night.
This is certainly not the best book in the series but as Mankell explains in the epilogue, it was difficult to write at a time when the future of the Baltic nations was so uncertain and he was treading on unchartered grounds. This is reflected in Wallander’s own reactions as he finds to his dismay that he is totally ignorant about the events happening practically in his backyard. Coming from a country and culture where everything is certain, he is baffled by the chaos, confusion and fear that ordinary Latvians live in and cope with.
Overall, I liked the book despite some reservations.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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My other Wallander series reviews –