Mankell, Henning 1948-

views updated

Mankell, Henning 1948-


Born February 3, 1948, in Stockholm, Sweden; son of Ivan (a judge) and Birgitta (a librarian); married and divorced three times; married Eva Bergman, 1998; children: Thomas, Marius, Morten, Jon.


Home—Skåne, Sweden, and Maputo, Mozambique. Office—Leopard Publishing House, S:t Paulsgatan 11, SE-118 45 Stockholm, Sweden.


Author. Head of Konobogsteaten, Vaxjo, 1984-87; Teatro Avenida (a theater company), Maputo, Mozambique, director, 1987—; cofounder of Leopard Publishing House, Stockholm, Sweden, 2001.


Nils Holgersson Plaque, 1991, and Deutscher Jugendliteraurpreis, 1993, both for The Dog that Ran Towards a Star; Swedish Academy of Detective Stories Award and Scandinavian Criminal Society Award, both 1991, for Faceless Killers; Swedish Academy of Detective Stories Award, 1995, for Sidetracked; Listeners Prize, Swedish Radio Program I, 1996, for Comedia Infantil; Astrid Lindgren Award, 1996, and award from newspaper Expressen, 1997, both for The Boy Who Slept with Snow in His Bed; Children's Book Award, City of Berlin, 1997, for The Secret of Fire; August Award, 1998, for A Voyage to World's End; Golden Paperback Award, 1999, for Sidetracked and The Fifth Woman; Macallan Golden Dagger Award, British Crime Writers Association, 2001, for Sidetracked; Los Angeles Times Book Award nomination, 2003, for The Dogs of Riga, and 2004, for The Return of the Dancing Master; Gumshoe Award for best European crime novel, Mystery Ink, 2004; Tolerance Prize, Evangelische Akademie des Tutzing, 2004. Afrikas röst, a biennial Swedish award for notable African writers, was established in the author's name.



Daisy Sisters, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden),1982.

Moerdare utan ansikte, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1991, translation by Steven T. Murray published as Faceless Killers, Reed, 1996.

Hundarna i Riga, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1991, translation by Laurie Thompson published as The Dogs of Riga, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Den vita lejoninnan, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1993, translation by Laurie Thompson published as The White Lioness, New Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Mannen som log, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1994 translation by Laurie Thompson published as The Man Who Smiled, New Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Villospaar, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1995 translation by Steven T. Murray published as Sidetracked, New Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Comedia infantil, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1995, translation by Tiina Nunnally published as Chronicler of the Winds, New Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Den femte kvinnan, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1996, translation by Steven T. Murray published as The Fifth Woman, New Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Steget efter, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1997, translation by Ebba Segerberg published as One Step Behind, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Brandvaegg, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1998, translation by Ebba Segerberg published as Firewall, New Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Danslärarens återkomst, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 2000, translation by Laurie Thompson published as The Return of the Dancing Master, New Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Innan frosten, Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 2002, translation by Ebba Segerberg published as Before the Frost, New Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Jag dör, men minnet lever, Leopard (Stockholm, Sweden), 2003, translation by Laurie Thompson published as I Die, but the Memory Lives On: A Personal Reflection on AIDS, Harvill (London, England), 2004, New Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Djup, Leopard (Stockholm, Sweden), 2005, published as Depths, Harvill (London, England), 2006.

Kennedys hjärna, Leopard (Stockholm, Sweden), 2005, published as Kennedy's Brain, Harvill (London, England), 2007.


Bergspraengaren (title means "The Rockblaster"), Foerfattarfoerlaget (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973.

Vettvillingen (title means "The Madman"), Foerfattarfoerlaget (Stockholm, Sweden), 1977.

Faangvaardskolonin som foersvann (title means "The Prison Camp that Disappeared"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1979.

Doedsbrickan (title means "The Badge of Death"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1981.

En seglares doed (title means "A Sailor's Death"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1981.

Sagan om Isidor (title means "The Tale of Isidor"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1984.

Leopardens oega (title means "The Eye of the Leopard"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1990.

Beraettelse paa tidens strand (title means "Report from the Shore of Time"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1998.

Tea-Bag, Leopard (Stockholm, Sweden), 2002.

Italienska skor (title means "Italian Shoes"), Leopard (Stockholm, Sweden), 2006.

Also author of Pyramiden (a collection of short stories), 1999.


Sandmaalaren (title means "The Sand Painter"), Foerfattarfoerlaget (Stockholm, Sweden), 1974.

Hunden som sprang mot en stjärna, Raben & Sjögren (Stockholm, Sweden), 1990, published as A Bridge to the Stars, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2007.

Skuggorna vaexer i skymningen (title means "The Shadows Grow at Dusk"), Raben & Sjögren (Stockholm, Sweden), 1991.

Katten som aelskade regn (title means "The Cat Who Loved Rain"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1992.

Eldens hemlighet, Raben & Sjögren (Stockholm, Sweden), 1995, translation by Anne Connie Stuksrud published as Secrets in the Fire, Annick Press (Toronto, Canada), 2003.

Pojken som sov med snoe i sin saeng (title means "The Boy Who Slept with Snow in His Bed"), Raben & Sjögren (Stockholm, Sweden), 1996.

Resan till vaerdens aende (title means "A Voyage to World's End"), Raben & Sjögren (Stockholm, Sweden), 1998.


Apelsintraedet (play; title means "The Orange Tree"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1983.

Aelskade syster (play; title means "Dear Sister"), Ordfront (Stockholm, Sweden), 1983.

Also author of teleplays and screenplays, including Eftertraedaren, 1999, and Labyrinten, 2000.


The novel Comedia Infantil was adapted into film under the same title, directed by Solveig Nordlund, 1998; the novels Hundarna i Riga and Den Vita lejoninnan have also been adapted to film; more than a dozen films based on Mankell's novels featuring detective Kurt Wallander have been produced in Sweden.


Henning Mankell is a best-selling Swedish author of adult and juvenile fiction who divides his time between Mozambique and Sweden. He is best known in the United States for his crime fiction series featuring police detective Kurt Wallander, including Faceless Killers, The Return of the Dancing Master, and The Man Who Smiled. Mankell is also the author of Secrets in the Fire and other works for juvenile readers. Wallander, Mankell's fictional detective, is a middle-aged chief inspector with a load of personal baggage: his wife has left him, his father is becoming senile, and he is estranged from his daughter. In the small town of Ystad, Sweden, he finds comfort in alcohol and opera. Booklist reviewer Bill Ott found in Wallander strains of other contemporary European detectives—John Harvey's Charlie Resnick and Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti, "Old World cops on the edge of being overwhelmed by the unremitting brutality of New World crime." Wallander's cases link Swedish crimes to the rest of the world; Ott wrote that Mankell combines "compelling procedural details with strong social consciousness." "I work in an old tradition that goes back to the ancient Greeks," Mankell told Guardian contributor Ian Thomson. "You hold a mirror to crime to see what's happening in society. I could never write a crime story just for the sake of it, because I always want to talk about certain things in society."

In Faceless Killers, Wallander is faced with the double murder of a farm couple. Johannes Lovgren is found beaten and stabbed to death, and his wife Maria, nearly dead, hangs from a noose around her neck. Before Marie dies, she utters the word "foreigner," which leads to anti-immigrant reaction and threats in the region. Wallander learns that the farmer had a secret life of which his wife was unaware. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Mankell "skilled" and his characterization of Wallander "effective," but observed that Mankell "provides essential information only at the last minute, which makes the solution feel more like an appendix than a conclusion." A Library Journal reviewer called the first book in the series a "brilliant U.S. debut."

The White Lioness is set in 1990 and takes place in Sweden and South Africa. The body of a murdered Swedish homemaker is found in a well, and Wallander goes after a stalker, whose airtight alibi prevents Wallander from making an arrest. International intrigue builds, because the killer is a former KGB agent who is training an assassin for the murder of Nelson Mandela, planned by right-wing Afrikaaners. Wallander is caught up in race relations in South Africa as he tries to solve the murder in Sweden. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted the length of The White Lioness and called the Wallander series "a Viking-size saga…. Wallander personifies the charmingly melancholy Scandinavian of lore and tradition. But 560 pages of this would hobble the pace, and dim the charisma, of just about any protagonist." Bill Ott wrote in Booklist that the plot is "a bit unwieldy, but the action is skillfully grounded in human rather than political concerns." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that because Mandela was not assassinated by the KGB or white terrorists, it makes Mankell's job "even harder." The reviewer said Wallander continues to be "a solid character, whose strengths and weaknesses are utterly credible … Mankell … knows how to make the most of his virtues."

In Sidetracked Wallander is faced with a series of murders in which the victims, all men, are killed with a hatchet, then scalped. The fact that there seems to be no connection between the victims makes the investigation difficult. The killer is actually a boy who is using the scalps in a ritual he hopes will revive his catatonic sister. Booklist reviewer Bill Ott said: "Wallander slogs on, using the very tedium of the investigative process to insulate himself from the horrors he faces." Other critics also commented on Mankell's observations about contemporary society. "The author's treatment of modern themes such as juvenile killers and broken families adds richness to what is essentially a straight-forward police procedural," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "Full of emotion, yet cleanly written," summarized Rex E. Klett in Library Journal.

In 2000 the English translation of another Wallander novel was released, titled The Fifth Woman. The crime novel "opens with the bloody killings of four nuns and a Swedish tourist (the fifth woman)," described Klett for Library Journal. This novel further highlighted the bleakness of Mankell's work. Ott noted in a Booklist review, "the European hard-boiled novel has taken the subgenre in a largely new direction: the heroes of this new breed of crime novel respond to the chaos of the modern world with sinking shoulders." A critic for Publishers Weekly also wrote "the narrative is so bleak and brooding that it certainly qualifies as the darkest of Swedish noir." Even if the atmosphere was bleak, the critic did note that "Mankell is a talented writer." Klett also commented on "the intricate plotting, chilling psychological divination, and thrilling police procedural."

Wallander investigates the links between the murder of a cab driver and three other strange deaths in Firewall. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer: "The recurring clues demonstrating the vulnerability of society in the electronic age remain just outside of the Luddite inspector's understanding." Other critics also noted the inspector's lack of technical savvy. "Wallender is a man reluctantly and slowly realising that he lives in a computer age, and there may be some advantages to this," noted Antonia Fraser in the Spectator. "At the same time the villains, who naturally plan a hideous worldwide conspiracy, are well aware of the advantages to them and the disadvantages to everyone else."

In One Step Behind, Wallander battles exhaustion and illness as he investigates the bizarre murder of three college students whose bodies were found hidden weeks after their disappearance. When a colleague named Svedburg is gunned down in his own home, the detective suspects the two cases are connected. Wallander has an inkling that some of his colleagues are to blame, "voicing his constant fear that the department, like civilization itself, is ‘coming apart at the seams,’" according to Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times Book Review. Other murders follow, and Wallander's suspicions come true: he is tracking a serial killer. Confronting "an adversary who becomes the personification of Wallander's worst fears," wrote Booklist contributor Ott, "the detective finds himself ironically reenergized in a kind of back-against-the-wall fight for the possibilities of life."

The Dogs of Riga, another Wallander novel to be published in English translation, "explores one man's struggle to find truth and justice in a society increasingly bereft of either," remarked a contributor in Publishers Weekly. A life raft carrying a pair of bodies washes ashore on the Swedish coast; the bullet-riddled corpses are identified as Latvian, with connections to the Russian mob. After a Latvian detective who assists the investigation is killed, Wallander journeys to Riga to help solve his murder, where he finds himself enmeshed in an increasingly complex and dangerous situation. "Wallander's introspection and self-doubt make him compellingly real," noted the Publishers Weekly critic, and Stasio remarked in the New York Times Book Review that the bleakness of The Dogs of Riga offers readers both a glimpse "of Wallander's state of mind and a comment on the greater darkness that he senses creeping over his country and his world."

Wallander teams with his daughter, Linda, a rookie police officer, to solve a grisly murder in Before the Frost. While Wallander investigates the ritualistic decapitation of a hiker, Linda searches for an old friend whose long-lost father has mysteriously reappeared after a decades-long absence. As the pair collect evidence, their cases begin to dovetail. "Despite the clumsiness of her professional techniques," remarked Stasio, "Linda is both smart and stubborn enough to follow the case on the twisted plot path that leads to an insidious religious subculture that threatens to undermine Sweden's famously tolerant social structure." In the novel, wrote New Statesman critic Joanna Kavenna, "Mankell stitches soapboxing, starkly poetic description and Scandinavian melancholy together into something racy and provocative."

Not all of the Wallander books have been published in English in the order they originally appeared in Swedish. First published in Sweden in 1994, The Man Who Smiled, Mankell's fourth Wallander mystery, was translated in 2006. On sick leave and contemplating retirement, Wallander returns to the force to investigate the death of an old friend that, on the surface, appears to be an accident. In the words of Philadelphia Inquirer critic Maxine Clarke: "The heart of the book is the inner life and thoughts of this unromantic, fiftyish man, and how he doggedly convinces first himself and then his colleagues and superiors that there is a thread to follow, a thread that will lead to an answer."

Mankell introduces Detective Stefan Lindman in The Return of the Dancing Master, a stand-alone mystery. A middle-aged insomniac who was recently diagnosed with mouth cancer, Lindman chooses to forego some much needed rest to solve the brutal slaying of a retired colleague, Herbert Molin, in the remote village of Sveg. According to Thane Peterson, writing in Business Week Online, Molin "was slowly whipped to death in the snowy yard of his isolated country house. Bloody footprints in his living room indicate that—before or after death—he had somehow been made to dance the fox-trot." "It's a case, a knotty one with tentacles reaching back to WWII and the Nazi monstrosity, that's just what Lindman needs," observed a Kirkus Reviews critic, while a Publishers Weekly contributor stated that "by the satisfying end readers with a taste for the unusual will find Lindman, and the mystery he solves, not in the least bit ordinary."

In addition to his writing, Mankell works frequently with AIDS charities in Africa, where he is also director of the Teatro Avenida, a theater group, in Mozambique. His novel Chronicler of the Winds is set in Africa, and his short work I Die, but the Memory Lives On: A Personal Reflection on AIDS is part of his "memory books" project, aimed at raising awareness of the crisis.

Discussing his approach to writing with Nicci Gerrard in the Observer, Mankell stated: "Whatever I write, I have to begin with a question, something I don't know the answer to. Here, it is: what happens to people when they're thrown out on to the margins of society, who realise every day that they aren't needed? I always start with a question, an issue. Then the story comes." He added: "I came to the world to tell stories. The day I can't, I will die. The storytelling and the lifeline are the same."



Atlantic Monthly, October, 2006, review of The Man Who Smiled, p. 127.

Booklist, February 15, 1997, Bill Ott, review of Faceless Killers, p. 1008; August, 1998, Bill Ott, review of The White Lioness, p. 1976; April 15, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Sidetracked, p. 1482; July, 2000, Bill Ott, review of The Fifth Woman, p. 2013; February 15, 2002, Bill Ott, review of One Step Behind, p. 997; December 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Secrets in the Fire, p. 749; March 1, 2004, Bill Ott, review of The Return of the Dancing Master, p. 1142; January 1, 2005, Bill Ott, review of Before the Frost, p. 828; September 15, 2006, review of The Man Who Smiled, p. 6.

Economist October 2, 2004, "Know Your Limits; A Round-up of Thrillers," review of Before the Frost, p. 84.

Guardian, November 1, 2003, Ian Thomson, "True Crime," interview with Henning Mankell.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1998, review of The White Lioness, p. 935; January 1, 2002, review of One Step Behind, p. 19; September 1, 2002, review of Firewall, p. 1269; March 1, 2003, review of The Dogs of Riga, p. 349; January 15, 2004, review of The Return of the Dancing Master, p. 64; December 15, 2004, review of Before the Frost, p. 1168; April 1, 2006, review of Chronicler of the Winds, p. 317; July 15, 2006, review of The Man Who Smiled, p. 705.

Lancet, July 3, 2004, Alex Coutinho, review of I Die, but the Memory Lives On: A Personal Reflection on AIDS, p. 20.

Library Journal, December, 1996, review of Faceless Killers, p. 150; April 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Sidetracked, p. 132; November 15, 1999, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of Sidetracked, p. 132; June 1, 2000, Rex E. Klett, review of The Fifth Woman, p. 208; February 15, 2002, Francine Fialkoff, review of One Step Behind, p. 182; February 15 2005, Wilda Williams, review of Before the Frost, p. 124; May 1, 2006, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Chronicler of the Winds, p. 82.

New Statesman, September 6, 2004, Joanna Kavenna, "The Swedish Morse," p. 54.

New York Times Book Review, June 13, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, "Crime," p. 26; March 3, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of One Step Behind; November 17, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of Firewall; May 4, 2003, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Dogs of Riga; March 28, 2004, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Return of the Dancing Master; January 23, 2005, Marilyn Stasio, "Cult Status," review of Before the Frost; September 24, 2006, Marilyn Stasio, "Glumshoe," review of The Man Who Smiled.

Observer, March 2, 2003, Nicci Gerrard, "Inspector Norse."

Philadelphia Inquirer, June 21, 2006, Carlin Romano, "Swede's Crime Stories Are Cerebral"; September 27, 2006, Maxine Clarke, review of The Man Who Smiled.

Publishers Weekly, December 16, 1996, review of Faceless Killers, p. 45; June 8, 1998, review of The White Lioness, p. 49; March 29, 1999, review of Sidetracked, p. 94; July 10, 2000, review of The Fifth Woman, p. 49; January 21, 2002, review of One Step Behind, p. 68; October 7, 2002, review of Firewall, p. 55; March 31, 2003, review of The Dogs of Riga, p. 46; March 1, 2004, review of The Return of the Dancing Master, p. 52; January 31, 2005, review of Before the Frost, p. 52; April 17, 2006, review of Chronicler of the Winds, p. 167; July 24, 2006, review of The Man Who Smiled, p. 39.

School Library Journal, May, 2004, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Secrets in the Fire, p. 152.

South of Sweden, August-September, 2006, David Wiles, "Henning Mankell," pp. 34-37.

Spectator, April 3, 2004, Antonia Fraser, "Swedish Exercises in Crime," review of Firewall, p. 45; November 26, 2005, Harriet Waugh, "Recent Crime Novels," review of The Man Who Smiled, p. 49.

Time, June 7, 2004, Lev Grossman, "Murder Most Exotic," review of The Return of the Dancing Master, p. 121; October 23, 2006, Philip Elmer-DeWitt, "Five Novel Mysteries from Old Masters," review of The Man Who Smiled, p. 88.

Wall Street Journal, March 28, 1997, Tom Nolan, review of Faceless Killers, p. A14.


Business Week Online, (February 19, 2004), Thane Peterson, "Dark Knights of Sweden's Fragile Soul."

Henning Mankell: The Official Web site, (January 1, 2007).

Speigel Online, (September 1, 2006), "Henning Mankell on AIDS in Africa."

Swedish Institute Web site, (July 7, 2006), David Wiles, "On the Trail of Sweden's Most Famous Detective."