Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Man from Beijing-Henning Mankell

The Man from Beijing
Henning Mankell
Knopf, Feb 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307271860

In January 2006 in Sweden, the police arrive at Hesjovallen to find a battered corpse on the outskirts of the jarringly silent village. Eighteen more severely destroyed bodies are found inside homes; not one living person remains inside the hamlet with no clues where they went. Dissonantly from the brutal scene is a red ribbon and a nineteenth century diary written by Andren as a gang master of Chinese slaves working the transcontinental railway found in the snow near the first body the cops saw.

Judge Birgitta Roslin reads about the worst mass murder massacre in Swedish history. She is stunned that her Andren grandparents are among the dead; but even more shocking the branch of the Andren family living in Nevada were also brutally murdered. She feels compelled to learn what happened in Hesjovallen and Nevada. The clues from the diary already take her back to the American Civil War and China then and now; as well Zimbabwe and Mozambique. However, all roads eventually lead to London's Chinatown.

Although Wallander takes a deserved respite, fans of Henning Mankell will fully appreciate this super thriller that focuses on modern day global issues with links back to the middle of the nineteenth century. The story line is fast-paced driven predominately by Birgitta as she disagrees with the police conclusion that a lunatic committed the mass murders. She thinks a deliberate intelligent person on a vendetta killed those whose blood caused generational blood flow of his or her family. The Man from Beijing is a one sitting winner.

Harriet Klausner