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Mankell, Henning - 'The Man from Beijing' (translated by Laurie Thompson)
Paperback: 560 pages (Feb. 2011) Publisher: Vintage ISBN: 0099532042

An isolated village in the depths of the Swedish countryside and most the inhabitants, including their cats and dogs have been brutally murdered. The only people spared are a couple and an old woman with dementia. The police later find out that all the 19 dead are related and assume that this is why the three were spared. Judge Birgitta Roslin reads of the murders on the newspapers and realises that her mother grew up in one of the houses and she was fostered as a child with one of the murdered families. Birgitta's searches through her mother's papers lead her to a letter written hundred years previously by a man working on the railways in America. She also finds that people of the same name were brutally murdered in America.

Birgitta has to take enforced leave from her work due to her ill health and since the police are not interested in her discoveries, she starts looking into the history of the family for herself. Her investigations take her to China where she finds a link to an old crime committed in the USA while the railways were being built, mainly by forced Chinese labour. Birgitta finds herself in the middle of a mystery based in the past but with powerful political links in the present and the future.

THE MAN FROM BEIJING has the same power and scope as the novels featuring Wallander. Henning Mankell's writing instantly transports the reader to the extreme cold and isolation of rural Sweden in the winter, to the claustrophobic bustle of modern day China, the Chinese expansion in Africa and to the grind and danger of the past when railways were forced across over and through the mountains of America. He reminds us that economic expansion comes with a cost, usually of innocent lives and that revenge is sometimes a dish served cold.

Like all books by Henning Mankell, this is not just another murder mystery. It is rewarding, in that one's mind is stretched by the history, the geography and the awareness he brings concerning international politics. A very enjoyable read as always.

Read another review of THE MAN FROM BEIJING.

Susan White, England
June 2011

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 11/06/2011 14:38