"The Swedish summer-time is too beautiful and too brief for something like this to happen." A young girl commits self-immolation, a former government minister is killed with an axe and scalped; these are the two brutal facts that confront Inspector Kurt Wallander as he prepares for his holiday. As the Swedish midsummer approaches there is no escaping from the darkness of society.
Sidetracked, the fifth of Henning Mankell's acclaimed Kurt Wallander mysteries, and the second to be translated into English, is an engrossing police procedural. The hard-boiled Kurt Wallander has softened slightly since he was first introduced in Faceless Killers, the first title in the series. He drinks less, has more functional relationships and has developed a faith in his investigative team. Despite this, it is his other qualities as a character, his philosophical angst and his intuitive pursuit of hunches, which drive this novel as Wallander struggles to discover the leads that will trap the killer.
Mankell manages to squeeze in serious comments on the state of Swedish society. The over-stretched police force, child prostitution and the corruption of high politics, all come under the scrutiny of Wallander's wearied gaze as he struggles to come to terms with the new violence of his society. This is a dark novel peppered with genuinely nasty violence, but it is Wallander's struggle to uncover the truth and face his own demons that provide the real thrills. --Iain Robinson