My favourite fictional detective is Henning Mankell’s Inspector Kurt Wallander. I’m not a huge crime reader, but there is something about this series that keep me enthralled. Wallander is miserable. Everything in his life falls down around him, from his wife having left him, to further failed attempts at love; to his stressful relationship with his senile father, and to his daughter, who at the beginning of the story arcs does not contact him much at all. He is an opera fan and a diabetic. The scenery is bleak and remote, and the crimes are gruesome. Wallander is nearly always sacrificing his own social life in order to solve murders. But in all of this depression there is a deft touch from Mankell, signs of life in Wallander, and you end up loving this grumpy Swedish detective.
And all the time you have good plots but a much broader discussion, on the politics of the country, or on grander themes, and significant literary value. Wallander is brilliant. At the beginning of the year I wrote up a bit of a review of Sidetracked, a wonderful novel that worked as a thriller and as something more intelligent. So I am half dreading and half excited in anticipation of the new BBC dramatisation of three Wallander novels, beginning with Sidetracked, starring Kenneth Branagh.
Then I read this article in the Times, which to be honest put me at ease. Not only is the author, Henning Mankell, himself pleased with the series, but Branagh was already a fan of the books—which for me adds value to the project. It’s always a worrying moment when books you love become adapted for TV or film, but this certainly looks promising. If you get a chance to read a book before next weekend then do, but in the meantime here’s a preview:[youtube:http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=HxNPMpzv5cQ]