In 1992, in peaceful Southern Sweden, Louise Akerblom, an estate agent, pillar of the Methodist church, wife and mother, disappears. There is no explanation and no motive. Inspector Wallander and his team are called in to investigate.
As Inspector Wallander is introduced to this missing person's case he has a gut feeling that the victim will never be found alive, but he has no idea how far he will have to go in search of the killer. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela has made his long walk to freedom, setting in train the country's painful journey towards the end of the apartheid. Wallander and his colleagues find themselves caught up in a complex web involving renegade members of South Africa's secret service and a former KGB agent, all of whom are set upon halting Mandela's rise to power.
Faced with an increasingly globalised world in which international terrorism knows no national borders, Wallander must prevent a hideous crime that means to dam the tide of history.
Like his countrymen Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Mankell writes mysteries that connect crimes in Sweden to the rest of the world. Faceless Killers (1997), the first of his books about provincial police inspector Kurt Wallender to appear here, involved Turkish immigrants and Eastern European villains. This novel, written in 1993, links the murder of a real estate agent in Wallender's town of Ystad to South Africa, where Nelson Mandela has just been released from prison, and to Russia, where the KGB is busy planning Mandela's fate. Wallender is a classically dour but dedicated policeman whose progress through his cases is a combination of hard slogging and lucky breaks. But several factors render this effort less compelling than its predecessor. The first is the Day of the Jackal syndrome: we know that Mandela wasn't killed by KGB agents or white Afrikaner terrorists, and that knowledge makes the suspense writer's job even harder. Second is the book's length--560 pages is a long haul, even with three exotic settings and dozens of important characters. Third might be Thompson's translation, which--unlike Steven T. Murray's work on Faceless Killers--often seems excessively deadpan. But Wallender is still a solid character, whose strengths and weaknesses are utterly credible, and Mankell (who now lives in Mozambique) knows how to make the most of his virtues.