Louise Akerblom, a happily married mother of two disappears. There is no apparent reason for her disappearance and from the very beginning Wallander smells that something is terribly wrong with this case. Then a house near the area where Louise was last thought to be explodes and police find a black finger in the debris. There is no real connection between the two events but Wallander is restless. Unaware, he has accidentally stumbled upon a conspiracy that can plunge South Africa into an abyss of bloodbath, a coup d’etat in the making.
After The Dogs of Riga, I wanted Wallander’s next case to be a pure police procedural. When The White Lioness turned out to be another political thriller, I was bit weary to start with. But The White Lioness turned out to be a much better book than its predecessor. The plot is more elaborate, the conspiracy more sinister. What made it different is that the story runs on parallel tracks. The political conspiracy is set in South Africa whereas the murder investigation happens in Sweden.
It is April 1992. Nelson Mandela is released from the prison and a new dawn is beckoning the end of apartheid. The atmosphere is charged and the country is ready to explode with slightest provocation. Only President De Klerk and Mandela can stir the country on the path of peaceful transformation. But a group of influential and highly placed fanatic Boers think otherwise. They plot to assassinate Mandela. A contract killer is sent for training in Sweden under Konovalenko, a ruthless ex KGB. But things start to go wrong as Louise Akerblom turns out at the wrong place at a wrong time.
The story is narrated through the eyes of many characters but the main plot revolves around Wallander’s murder investigation. Once he has traced the links to Konovalenko, he is relentless in his pursuit and takes great professional and personal risks. His family is under serious threat and he is fighting his own demons. Wallander is suffering from symptoms of clinical depression and every step that takes him near Konovalenko also expedite his depression. In the end, Wallander manages to solve the murder of Louise Akerblom and thereby helping to avert the assassination of Mandela.
I think that Mankell is best when he is on home turf and I felt some awkwardness in the story when it runs in South Africa. But this time Wallander does not cross the border and the part set in Sweden is fast and more believable, though bit melodramatic in the end. What sets this series apart is of course Kurt Wallander. It’s a richly drawn character. He is fallible, makes errors and his personal life is in shambles. He is no super cop and owns his mistakes – personal and professional. He is not ashamed of crying and in spite of good intent, his personal life is spiralling towards worse and he just cannot manage to take control of it for good. The end leaves him highly strung and he is not sure when he will be able to return.
Now I am really hooked to the series and will try to wade my way through all the books as soon as I can.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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My other Wallander series reviews –