Thursday, April 16, 2009

A review of "Firewall"

by Henning Mankell

I picked up Firewall because it was written by a Swedish author, Henning Mankel, and I’d recently enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, also by a Swedish author. Pretty silly reason. Well, there was that, and the fact that my local Barnes & Noble was having a 3-for-2 sale.

I was not disappointed. I enjoy Mankel’s style. He fleshes out his story and characters by adding quick little mundane details that seem to come straight from your own life. Wallander, his police detective, is moody, going from pessimistic one day to upbeat the next, for no particular reason. He becomes paranoid about his colleagues, but later feels amiable towards them. He writes himself a note to do something and leaves it on the floor in front of his door so he won’t forget it in the morning. Etc. These little details make you feel like Wallander is a person, not the cardboard cutout that so often appears in genre fiction.

Aside from that, the mystery in this book, involving financial network security, was intriguing. Although it didn’t contain enough detail to make me perfectly happy, it did keep me eagerly following along to find out more. I was slightly disappointed by the ending. There was a bit of that element where the evil arch-villain trips himself up by making his master stroke far too complicated. However, getting to that ending was entertaining, so all is forgiven.

Plus, it’s kind of fun walking through a world where all the place names remind you of items from an IKEA catalog.

I am succumbing to the idea that the Swedes are just really good fiction authors. Maybe it helps that a book has to be pretty good for it to be worth translating from Swedish into English.

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