Sweden’s most tenacious detective races to unlock the twisted logic behind a madman’s crimes: “Lyrical, meticulous, and stunningly suspenseful” (St. Petersburg Times).
On Midsummer’s Eve, three friends gather in a secluded meadow in Sweden. In the beautifully clear twilight, they don eighteenth-century costumes and begin a secret role-play. But an uninvited guest soon brings their performance to a gruesome conclusion. His approach is careful; his aim is perfect. Three bullets, three corpses. And his plans have only just begun to take shape.
Meanwhile, Inspector Kurt Wallander is just back from vacation. Constantly fatigued, he soon learns his health is at risk—but there’s no time for rest when a fellow officer is murdered. Wallander soon discovers that the two grisly crimes are connected. A serial killer is on the loose, and the only lead is a photograph of a strange woman no one in Sweden seems to know. Forced to dig into the personal life of a trusted colleague, Wallander steps into a nightmare worse than any he could have imagined. Can he find his way out of the darkness before it’s too late?
A pulse-pounding thriller and an incisive investigation into the mysteries of human nature, One Step Behind is “typical of the dense, intricate intelligence that Mankell brings to detection and crime writing” (The Washington Post Book World).
In his fifth U.S. appearance in this taut, intricately plotted series (The Fifth Woman, etc.), Swedish detective Kurt Wallander pursues a long, complex case sure to please those who like weighty police procedurals. Six weeks after three college students are murdered during a Midsummer's Eve party, their bodies hidden to prevent discovery, Wallander's secretive colleague Svedberg is found at home with half his head blown off. Wallander's persistent, occasionally brilliant, investigation points to a connection between Svedberg and the disappearance of the three young people. Soon after their bodies surface, a fourth friend, who was too sick to attend the party, is killed. More murders follow, with the exhausted, understaffed detectives just too late each time to prevent the next crime. Eventually the reader meets the killer, whose bizarre motive and methods the author gradually reveals. The dyspeptic Wallander, whose frazzled personal life is further impaired by the diabetes he ignores, works himself to exhaustion, sidestepping official procedure and making intuitive leaps to find the cold-blooded killer. The glum tone of the book, despite the setting during a warm and luxuriant late summer, reflects a crumbling Swedish society: government corruption is widespread; honest cops are disillusioned by abuses in high officialdom; rifts among social classes and between Swedes and recent immigrants abound. Mankell's writing is deadpan and stark, the plotting meticulous and exacting.