Faceless Killers; an intelligent, elegantly plotted police procedural set in the small Swedish community of Ystad. At the time of that first introduction, Wallander is approaching middle age, divorced, intermittently estranged from his father, consumed by the responsibilities of his profession, and yet ambivalent about the value of police-work. He is a complex character, and one not given to undue self-examination. In Faceless Killers and subsequent novels in the series, we learn that Wallander suffered a life-threatening injury early in his career, that he has loved opera virtually all his life, and that the roots of his father's disapproval are oblique. With the publication of The Pyramid: The First Wallander Cases, Mankell has chosen to elaborate on these hints at his creation's past. The book is comprised of five short mysteries: Wallander's First Case, The Man with the Mask, The Man on the Beach, The Death of the Photographer, and the novella-length The Pyramid. (It seems fitting that this "prequel" is structured around Wallander's investigations, as the cases he's worked are unquestionably the defining experiences of his life.) Mankell establishes connections between these narratives, often foreshadowing events that are well known to readers of the series. Some of these connections, though subtle, are quite touching. There is something thrilling, and yet bittersweet, in our first glimpse of Wallander as a brash young man. Something like seeing an old photograph of your father, stronger and younger than you can remember him. We get a sense of the character's innate gifts for investigation, and some revealing hints at his deteriorating private life. I was particularly affected by the scenes involving Wallander's mentor and senior detective, Rydberg. In a scene that takes place on New Year's Day, Wallander and Rydberg shake hands before parting, "as if to mark the occasion." More than just a touching example of how colleagues express their affection, it's an indicator of how much Wallander values his older friend, whose absence casts a long shadow over the series. Mankell does a fine job of portraying the passage of time from one case to the next. In Wallander's First Case, the twenty-three-year-old cavalierly tells his father that he never gets sick, and his father replies, "Wait ." By the last narrative in the book, 40-year-old Wallander is following leads while nursing a cold and a fever, carrying toilet paper in his pocket to wipe his endlessly running nose. The author wisely holds back as much as he reveals, never quite specifying the cause of enmity between the father and the son, but The Pyramid does provide a powerful example of how similar and yet divergent are the personalities of these two characters. In light of these new cases, it seems clear that Wallander's aptitude for investigative work is innate, and not something that was completely taught. Wallander's progression as a detective can be seen as an ongoing refinement of temperament. The brash young police officer of Wallander's First Case is still alive and well, tempered by experience, maturity, and some regret.
The Pyramid: The First Wallander Cases
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