The Pyramid: And Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries
By Henning Mankell
Read by Dick Hill
Blackstone Audio (2009)
An Unabridged Edition on CD
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 21, 2010
Following the phenomenal success of the late Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's three novels, a groundswell of interest rose to read other Swedish crime fiction. Many turned to Hemming Mankell, already successful in selling his Kurt Wallander detective thrillers and the TV movies based on some of them.
Mankell's Wallander crime books were first published in Sweden in 1991 and in English in 1997. His first volume involved a Wallander case in 1990 when Wallander was a senior detective 42 years old. After completing eight full-length Wallander novels, and after receiving requests from his readers, Mankell decided to write short stories telling the early tales of his detective. These five stories were collected in The Pyramid.
The first, Wallander's First Case, begins in 1969 when Wallander is twenty. He takes a job as a patrolman against the strong mocking objections of his eccentric father. He wants to be a detective. He works hard and spends hours learning the ropes to impress his superiors. He has a girl friend who constantly criticizes him for being late, even though she knows that he is late because of his job. He lives in an apartment with thin walls and hears a gun shot. He is told by the detectives that his neighbor committed suicide. He feels that he must investigate to find out what really occurred even though the detective in charge insists that he not do so. Readers read asking themselves many questions. Will his actions stymie his goal to be a detective? Will he solve the case? What strange people will he encounter? Why do people dislike patrolmen? Why is he stabbed?
The second story is The Man with the Mask. It is 1975. Wallander is now a detective and married to his girl friend. She is still complaining that he is always late. When he is leaving to go home, his superior sends him to a store to investigate whether a woman who called the police saying that there is a strange man outside her store is in danger. Wallander finds the woman dead. He is hit on the head and tied up. When he regains consciousness, he sees a man with a hood holding a gun. Why is the man there? Why did he kill the woman? Does he want to kill the detective? How can Wallendar save himself?
The Man on the Beach is the third tale. It is 1987. Wallander is having serious problems with his wife. He expects a divorce. A man takes a taxi from a beach back to town. When the ride is over, the driver discovers that the man is dead. The coroner says he died of poison. When was it administered? Why? Who did it? Why was the man at the beach?
The Death of a Photographer, the fourth story, occurs in 1988 when Wallendar is forty. A photographer, who was estranged from his wife for twenty years, although both lived in the same house, is clubbed to death. He had taken pictures of prominent people, mostly politicians, and distorted them, making the faces recognizable but ugly. One picture is of Wallendar who is revolted at what he sees. Why did the photographer do this? Is he crazy? Why did he garble Wallander's face? Are the distortions related to his murder?
The Pyramid is the longest of the five tales. It is 1989. Wallendar is divorced. He is involved in a case of a small plane crash where two smugglers are killed. Later more people are killed, including two erasable spinster women who run a small sowing shop but have millions in the bank and in stocks. Is there more than one crime? Can Wallendar solve everything?
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.