The Fifth Woman - Henning Mankell

FOR many of us, our introduction to Swedish detective Kurt Wallander was last year s BBC 1 short series starring Kenneth Branagh, and a couple of Swedish adaptations on BBC 4. So the new publication of The Fifth Woman (�7.99, Vintage) is a chance to see w

FOR many of us, our introduction to Swedish detective Kurt Wallander was last year's BBC 1 short series starring Kenneth Branagh, and a couple of Swedish adaptations on BBC 4.

So the new publication of The Fifth Woman (�7.99, Vintage) is a chance to see what the books are like.

And the answer is compelling. At 583 pages, this is a chunky paperback which keeps the reader gripped from the first. Henning Mankell's police procedural is as detailed, methodical and thoughtful as its hero - a rather melancholic man who doesn't particularly enjoy police work and the horrific crimes he has to investigate but does it because he's good at it.

Where so many fictional detectives seem to revel in the gruesome, rarely stopping to think about the victims, just enjoying the chase and the puzzle, Wallender does care about the victims. The crimes haunt him.


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He inevitably draws comparisons with Inspector Morse and comes out of the comparison well. It's easy to see why Mankell's 10 Wallender books have proved so popular, having been published in 33 countries and regularly topping the bestseller lists throughout Europe.

Novelist Michael Ondaatje, who won the Booker Prize for The English Patient, says: "For me, Henning Mankell is by far the best writer of police mysteries today. He is in the great tradition of those whose works transcend their chosen genre to become thrilling and moral literature."

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The Fifth Woman is the sixth in the Wallender series. Kurt is trying to come to terms with the sudden death of his father while investigating a series of particularly gruesome murders.

- LINDSAY JONES

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