Spiralling into an alcohol-fuelled depression after killing a man in the line of duty, Inspector Kurt Wallander has made up his mind to quit the police force for good.
When an old acquaintance seeks Wallander's help to investigate the suspicious circumstances in which his father has died, Kurt doesn't want to know. But when his former friend turns up dead, shot three times, Wallander realises that he was wrong not to listen.
Against his better judgment, he returns to work to head what may now have become a double murder case. An enigmatic big-business tycoon seems to be the common denominator in the two deaths. But while Wallander is on the trail of the killer, somebody is on the trail of Wallander, and closing in fast...
Over 35 million copies of the Kurt Wallander series sold worldwide.
First published in Sweden in 1994, Mankell's terrific fourth Kurt Wallender mystery opens with the kind of startling image typical of this internationally bestselling series (Firewall, etc.): a lawyer, driving home through the fog, stops after he sees "a human-sized effigy" propped on a chair in the middle of a deserted highway. Gustaf Torstensson gets out of the car to investigate, is hit from behind and was "dead before his body hit the damp asphalt." The police accept the assailant's claim that it was an accident, but when Torstensson's son, Sten, is shot dead just two weeks later, the brooding Wallender, who's on sick leave and vowing to retire from the Ystad police force, decides to pursue the killer and resume his career. The chief suspect a powerful, globe-trotting Swedish businessman who's the smiling man of the title leads Wallender on an exquisitely plotted search for motive and evidence. Dark and moody, this is crime fiction of the highest order.