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In the award-winning Sidetracked, Kurt Wallander is called to a nearby rapeseed field where a teenage girl has been loitering all day long. He arrives just in time to watch her douse herself in gasoline and set herself aflame. The next day he is called to a beach where Sweden’s former Minister of Justice has been axed to death and scalped. The murder has the obvious markings of a demented serial killer, and Wallander is frantic to find him before he strikes again. But his investigation is beset with a handful of obstacles—a department distracted by the threat of impending cutbacks and the frivolity of World Cup soccer, a tenuous long-distance relationship with a murdered policeman’s widow, and the unshakably haunting preoccupation with the young girl who set herself on fire. Fascinating and astute, Sidetracked is a compelling mystery enhanced by keen social awareness.

420 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1995

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About the author

Henning Mankell

315 books3,494 followers
Henning Mankell was an internationally known Swedish crime writer, children's author and playwright. He was best known for his literary character Kurt Wallander.

Mankell split his time between Sweden and Mozambique. He was married to Eva Bergman, Swedish director and daughter of Ingmar Bergman.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 957 reviews
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,915 followers
July 11, 2017
As the fifth entry in this series opens, Swedish police detective Kurt Wallander is looking forward to his upcoming vacation, but then he answers a call to a farmer's field where a young girl has been standing all day in what appears to be a catatonic state. Just as Wallander arrives, the girl douses herself in gasoline and burns herself to death. Wallander is naturally horrified and cannot imagine why the girl would have chosen to end her life, especially in such a painful manner. His task now is to identify the young woman and notify her family of her fate. This will prove to be a difficult process.

Shortly after the girl's death a retired Swedish Minister of Justice is murdered by someone who smashes his head with an ax and then takes his scalp. Wallander and his team are on the case, but have no obvious suspects. For the remainder of the book, the P.O.V. switches back and forth between Wallander and the killer who is on a mission that becomes clearer as the book progresses. As it does, a couple more men will be murdered and scalped and it becomes pretty clear that neither Wallander nor anyone else on his team will be going on vacation anytime soon.

This is another very intriguing and entertaining entry in the series and, as always, it allows Mankell to make observations about a number of social issues. There are a number of troubled families in this book, for example, including Wallander's own. His difficult relationship with his daughter, Linda, has significantly improved, but his father is slowly sinking into dementia and Wallander realizes that they will have little time to repair their fragile relationship.

The plot is compelling and moves along swiftly; as always the characters are very interesting, and all in all, this is a book that should appeal to large numbers of crime fiction fans.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,690 followers
September 9, 2011
Sometimes when you discover a new author -- even when your first exposure to their books doesn't blow your mind -- you see the promise of something fantastic, and you keep reading.

I've been reading many authors with that goal in mind: Ian Rankin (for the last few months) and Stephen King (for most of my life, with perpetual disappointment) and Nick Hornby (for a decade and a half) and Philip Palmer (for a couple of years) and Miriam Toews (since last summer). Only one of those authors has delivered the fantastic, but my love for Arsenal keeps Hornby on the "potential list" because I was predisposed to loving Fever Pitch, and it hardly seems fair to give his writing credit for such an easy victory.

Henning Mankell was on that list until today. I've enjoyed his books, some of them quite a bit, and I have become a big fan of Kurt Wallander (played brilliantly on the BBC by Kenneth Branagh*), Mankell's brooding, anti-social, middle aged, tenacious, Ystad cop. But Mankell finally delivered on the promise he made me in his first Wallander book, Faceless Killers.

Sidetracked is the first fantastic Wallander I've read. It does everything Mankell always does, only better. It's a perfect mixture of Wallander's personal life (his always complicated relationships with his daughter, Linda, his Father, his long-distance, Latvian lover, Baiba, and his partner, Ann-Britt Hoglund), his professional life (this time he's searching for a serial killer who scalps and kills his victims with an axe), and his interior life (full of nostalgia, anxiety, pain, guilt and doubt). Wallander feels, this time, like he's not just a character on the page, but a real cop, a real person, living somewhere out there in the world at this very moment. It's rare for me to find a character I believe in so thoroughly, and it's exciting when it happens.

I had a hard time putting this book down. Honestly. And if it hadn't been for life, I would have read it in one bleary-eyed sitting. Even so, I stayed up late every night for three nights so that I could finish. I loved this book. I wonder if any of those remaining in the series will deliver the same satisfaction. No matter. One book in my personal fantastic range is enough. Mankell has solidified me as his fan.

Long live Wallander.

*Sorry. I had to shamelessly plug old Ken, as I do in every Wallander book review.
Profile Image for Berengaria.
361 reviews64 followers
September 30, 2022
2.5 stars

Just as much as I enjoyed the BBC-Ken Branagh Wallander series, I didn't enjoy reading one of the actual novels. (And I'm a fan of Scandi mysteries/literature.)

We are told who the murderer is at the very beginning and then for almost 500 pages (Italian edition) we get to watch as Wallander puzzles together what we already know centimetre by aching centimetre.

Not terribly riveting.

Sometimes a structure like that works as a whydunnit, but in this case the why is so gobsmackingly obvious that I spent hundreds of pages sighing and drumming my fingers waiting for some unforeseen twist to occur.

None did.

It ended exactly as Mankell set it up.

What's the fun in that? Especially when the story drags on and on and on with far too much detail in some parts and far too little in others.

One unexpected twist did occur for me personally: I realised I just don't like the character of Wallander very much.

He's mostly bland and the few quirks he does have (or has in this novel) are not endearing, they are just low-key irritating. Especially the forgetfulness, the emotional cowardice towards his father and Baiba and the "feeling of dis-ease" that invades his body about 15 times in the novel...who knows why.

And then this hammer nut: There's a serial killer on the loose. Your face and name is in the newspapers as one of the guys leading the investigation team. Suddenly, you can't find your house keys. They've disappeared. BUT YOU DO NOT CHANGE YOUR LOCKS even when a colleague suggests it to you. You just say "nah" and go on.

Add shockingly negligent to the bland and forgetful!

This was my first Mankell and it'll be my last. It was way too long, way too predictable and at its core, very little more than a straightforward police procedural with no surprises.

(Read in Italian as part of the Foreign Language Reading Challenge 2022)
Profile Image for Harry.
319 reviews398 followers
April 13, 2014
Book Review

We all get sidetracked, it's a human condition and a decidedly reactive one. The looming question, of course, is: sidetracked from what? Mankell asks this question in this, his 5th in the Wallander series. The subject is Kurt Wallander. Kurt's goal is to capture a heineous serial killer on the loose in Ystad, Sweden. This is his job as a police officer. For most writers this is enough to confidently concoct a plot that would satisfy most crime readers, but not for Mankell. In the tradition of Per and Maj, the godfathers of police procedurals in this neck of the woods, Henning Mankell adheres to the realism evangelized by this duo of authors. Yes. The killings are the carrot leading Kurt by the nose: but the reality, Mankell tells us, is that life interrupts. It gets you sidetracked.

Go to any review of these Wallander books and you're likely to run into the following: "Wallander is my favorite detective and this novel didn't let me down when it came to him and his character development." Or, "[...] a protagonist you don't love or hate, he's just a real guy." It is this realism, this portrayal of a flawed but very decent policeman: a man with a troubled family, a daughter, a sister, his father the aging artist; a man with insufferable insomnia; a very lonely middle-aged man afraid of love; a policeman who still misses his dead colleague; a man who mourns a Sweden swiftly on the decline; a human being with a unbridled passion for natural landscapes and opera. It is this realism surrounding the characterization of Kurt Wallander that has as one reviewer puts it: made Henning Mankell the greatest export from Sweden aside from IKEA.

Mankell's mastery lies in pitting Kurt's character traits against real-time events that involve his profession as a policeman. A simple example of this might be found near the beginning of the novel. Enjoying the onset of a lovely and warm Swedish summer day Kurt receives and unusual call: a woman was standing in the middle of yellow fields, like a single teardrop on nature's flawless skin, and had been standing there for hours on end. Could someone please remove her from the farmer's land? On the drive over, Kurt is invigorated by the beautiful day. Contentment does not come often to Wallander but it is present on this fine day.

 photo rapeseedAndWoman_zpsd3fe25b6.jpg

He rolled down the window. The yellow rapeseed fields billowed on both sides of the road. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this good. In the distance he caught a glimpse of the sea. [...] Wallandar got out of the car and looked around. Everywhere he looked were yellow rapeseed fieds.

 photo rapeseedwoman_zpsc6988cbe.jpg

The woman was about fifty meters away out in the rapeseed field.The woman was standing completely still, watching him. When he got closer he saw that not only did she have long black hair, but her skin was dark too. It stood out sharply against the yellow field. He stopped when he reached the edge of the field. He raised one hand and tried to wave her over. She continued to stand utterly motionless. Even though she was still quite far from him and the billowing rapeseed hid her face every so often, he had the impression that she was quite beautiful.

He started walking towards her. Then he stopped short. And everything happened very fast. She raised a plastic jug over her head and started pouring a colorless liquid over her hair, her face, and her body. He had a fleeting thought that she must have been carrying it the whole time. And now he could tell she was terrified. Her eyes were wide open and she was staring straight at him. At the same moment a smell of gasoline wafted toward him. Suddenly she had a flickering cigarette lighter in one hand, which she touched to her hair. Wallander cried out as she burst into flame like a torch. Paralyzed, he watched her lurch around the field as the fire sizzled and blazed over her body. Wallander could hear himself screaming.

 photo girlOnFire_zpsfbb94775.jpg

As we can see, here Mankell pits Kurt's love of the Swedish landscape - a rare point of contentment for Wallander - against his job as a policeman. Numerous examples of this occur throughout the novel, and we might even say that the entire novel is a stitching of character traits against horrific events. In this novel, the horror comes to Ystad via a serial killer (the first in Sweden's criminal history), a powerful monster who favors splitting open skulls with an ax and taking the victim's scalp.

 photo axeMan_zps0d3076ab.jpg

Mankell pits Kurt's distaste for violence against the need for it. We might find Kurt enjoying a moment of pure happiness as he closes the bedroom door on the sleeping form of his daughter who has come to visit him. This, while unknown to Kurt our killer in possession of keys to the apartment waits for them to go to sleep. Here Mankell takes Wallander's troubled family, if not Wallander's forgetfullness, his protective attitude towards children in general and makes it a distraction to resolving the case.

Yes, Kurt is a man who makes mistakes. We all get distracted by life. But that is precisely what makes him human, what makes Walander so attractive as our hero. This novel falls into the category of a police procedural. And, as we know is often the case with procedurals the antagonist is known to the reader before he or she is known to Wallander. In fact, the novel opens with a chapter where we enter the mind of our killer. Distracted is a story about how a crime is solved, with numerous convergences and yes, distractions. It is not a mystery that eludes the reader. That it nevertheless is a veritable page turner second-to-none speaks to the artistry of Henning Mankell.
Series Review
Henning Mankell is an internationally known Swedish crime writer known mostly for this fictional character Kurt Wallander. He is married to Eva Bergman.

Henning Mankell - Author

It might be said that the fall of communism and the consequent increase in Swedish immigration and asylum seekers has been the engine that drives much of Swedish crime fiction. Mankell's social conscience, his cool attitude towards nationalism and intolerance is largely a result of the writer's commitment to helping the disadvantaged (see his theater work in Africa). In this vein, readers might be interested in his stand-alone novel Kennedy's Brain a thriller set in Africa and inspired by the AIDS epidemic (Mankell often traveled to Africa to help third world populations); or read his The Eye of the Leopard, a haunting novel juxtaposing a man's coming of age in Sweden and his life in Zambia.

Mankell's love of Africa, his theater work on that continent, and his exploits in helping the disadvantaged is not generally known by his American readers. In fact, an international news story that has largely gone unnoticed is that while the world watched as Israeli soldiers captured ships attempting to break the Gaza blockade, few people are aware that among the prisoners of the Israelis was one of the world's most successful and acclaimed writers: Henning Mankell.

Israeli Blockade

It is no exaggeration when I say that Henning Mankell is by far one of the most successful writers in Scandinavia, especially in his own country of Sweden. The Nordic weather, cold to the bones, drives its populace indoors for much of the year where cuddling up to read the latest in crime fiction is a national pastime.

For many GR readers who have been introduced to Kurt Wallander it is interesting to note that ultimately the success of bringing Mankell to English speaking audiences only came after bringing in the same production company responsible for Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy for the wildly popular BBC version starring Kenneth Branagh. Viewers had no problem with an anglicized version of Mankell's work, an English speaking cast set down in a genuine Swedish countryside. Of course, to those fans thoroughly familiar with Mankell's work, it is the Swedish televised version that is found to be a more accurately portrayal of Mankell's novels...not the British, sensationalized version. And there's a reason for that.

Henning's prose is straightforward, organized, written mostly in linear fashion, a straightforward contract with the reader. It is largely quantified as police procedural work. The work of men who are dogged and patient to a fault. Kurt Wallander, the hero in Mankell's novels, is the alter ego of his creator: a lonely man, a dogged policeman, a flawed hero, out of shape, suffering from headaches and diabetes, and possessing a scarred soul. Understandably so and if some of the GR reviews are an indication; like his famous father-in-law Ingmar Bergman, Mankell is from a country noted for its Nordic gloom. But before you make the assumption that this is yet another addition to the somberness and darkness that characterizes Nordic writing Mankell often confounds this cliche with guarded optimism and passages crammed with humanity (for Mankell, this is true both personally and professionally as a writer).

As Americans we often think of Sweden as possessing an very open attitude towards sex and that this is in marked contrast (or perhaps reprieve) to the somber attitudes of its populace. But this is a view that often confounds Swedish people. The idea of Nordic carnality is notably absent in Mankell's work, as much a statement of its erroneous perception (Swedes do not see themselves as part of any sexual revolution at all) and in the case of Mankell ironic because the film director most responsible for advancing these explicit sexual parameters (for his time) was his own father-in-law the great Ingmar Bergman. In a world where Bergman moves in a universe where characters are dark, violent, extreme and aggressive - take note that the ultimate root of this bloody death and ennui lies in the Norse and Icelandic Viking sagas of Scandinavian history - that dark, somber view ascribed to both Mankell and Bergman's work was often a topic of intense jovial interest between these two artists.

For any reader of Nordic crime fiction, Henning Mankell is an immensely popular and staple read.

Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
November 21, 2020
It will come as no surprise that in Henning Mankell’s fifth novel, Sidetracked, in his Kurt Wallander mystery series, that detective Wallander gets sidetracked in his investigation of a serial killer, not figuring out whodunnit until a few people are first killed. So, having read too many serial killer thrillers recently from Jo Nesbo, I was not pleased to see Mankell turn to one for the first time here, but in the end I came to like it well enough, and will rate it 3.75 stars.

We get to know the killer before anyone else, since part of the story shifts to his telling of it, and one distinctive feature is the killer begins to associate his acts with the Native American warrior chief, Geronimo who, it is presumed, imagines himself as taking strength or energy from the ones he has killed. So, axes and scalping are involved, in 1994 Sweden, as the World Cup (football) engulfs the country. (Wallander doesn’t like football, but he keeps betting correctly in the office pool). One interesting feature of the murders is that, as opposed to many serial killer stories, we can begin to understand them in the light of possible retribution (as many do now with Geronimo).

Mankell has consistently established his interest in exploring social issues within his mysteries, set in and around the small town of Ystad, in the southern province of Scania, in Sweden. He seems to want to push against provincial attitudes by illustrating global issues that impact (or should more impact) small town life. In this book Mankell features sex trafficking.

I like the resolution, the un-sidetracking. And the fact that Wallander finally gets to take a trip to Italy with his father, who reveals he has Alzheimer’s. And he gets to see his (tenuous) Latvian girlfriend Bya when things get solved.
Profile Image for Carlo Hublet.
536 reviews2 followers
December 22, 2022
Un roman d'une densité extraordinaire. Mankell ne se contente pas d'écrire un thriller à plusieurs étages. Un gamin fou qui veut venger sa soeur, lui rendre sa vie au travers de rites indiens qui lui font commettre les crimes les plus atroces. Un réseau de bourgeois-politiciens véreux innommables. Mais en même temps, les relations complexes de Kurt Wallender, le policier scannien, avec son amie lettone Baiba, sa propre fille Laura et son infernal et attachant papa. Foultitude de détails de toutes ces vies entremêlées, jamais ennuyeux ni fastidieux. Du grand art de littérature. Humain, poignant, palpitant.
Profile Image for John.
1,146 reviews85 followers
August 6, 2020
Poor Wallander. He really needs to take a time management course. He is almost about to go on holiday when he finds out his father has Alzheimer’s, he watches a young girl burn herself alive and a maniac is killing elderly once powerful men with an axe and scalping them with no clues.

The story follows several gruesome killings with another case overlapping. Stefan seems to me a bit far fetched as a moped riding serial killer driven by trying to cure his traumatized sister by sacrifices based on his weird Western Indian beliefs.

Overall an entertaining story but once Stefans father meets his maker and the police find his mother is a drunk and his sister institutionalized then alarm bells should be ringing. Still I plan to watch the BBC adaptation out of curiosity.

I watched the BBC adaptation. What were they thinking? The ending is changed. To the detriment. What is truly appalling is how they made the retired policeman as a bad guy. On the plus side the Swedish scenery was lovely. The acting was average and wooden in places. Overall the book is so much richer and better. Perhaps if they had a bigger budget and followed the story more it would be better as well as filmed the scenes in apartments not houses which took away the realism for me. Especially Stefan and his family living in a grotty apartment they have them in a rural house. Have other people seen the BBC adaptations and am I being too cruel?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Marisa Muñoz.
99 reviews36 followers
September 24, 2021
Mankell me conquistó de nuevo. En está quinta entrega de la serie nos muestra a un inspector Wallander maduro, vulnerable y humano, que lucha con sus miedos e inseguridades a la vez que saca adelante la investigación con su habitual persistencia e intuición. Para mí siempre es recomendable!!
Profile Image for Mr. Gottshalk.
619 reviews14 followers
March 15, 2017
Deceptively long at 350 pages with a small font, the terrific detective saga took longer than I thought, but satisfied throughout. What I like the most about Wallander is that he is very human, and not just another cop on a case. We can relate to the complexities of his personal life, while at the same time follow his brilliant and sometimes hard-luck scramble to find a psychopath. I am now officially a fan of the Kurt Wallander series. Although the Swedish characters and settings are a mouthful, there is a great story behind it all!
Profile Image for Dorothy.
1,341 reviews91 followers
October 16, 2011
Reading this book, I found myself really wishing that Inspector Kurt Wallander would get some professional help. The man is so depressed that it makes me depressed just to read about him.

Not that he doesn't have plenty of reason to be depressed. His personal life is a mess. He's still grieving for and missing his friend and mentor who died years before. He feels inadequate in his work and there are other stresses in his job as his department faces a budget crunch and possible staff reductions. There is a woman in his life and he wants to marry her, but she is the widow of a Latvian policeman who was killed in the line of duty and she's not so sure she wants to commit to a life with a Swedish policeman. (I can't say that I blame her.) His father has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and he seems to be deteriorating rapidly. The one bright spot in his life is his daughter with whom he finally seems able to build a positive relationship.

Wallander's depression is made worse by the images he has to deal with in his work. For example, at the beginning of this book, he is called out to a farm where a young girl is hanging about for no apparent reason in a rape field. As he moves in and tries to talk to her, the young girl seems to panic and brings out a petrol can, dousing herself in fuel and then striking a match. Before Wallander's horrified eyes, the girl burns to death in the grain field.

And then, of course, there are the serial murders.

Someone is killing men, some of them very powerful men, by various horrific means. Not only is the killer taking their lives, he (she?) is also taking their scalps. Are these simply random killings or is there an unknown link between the victims? Wallander, who is a very instinctual detective, instinctively intuits that there is a connection, but what is it? It certainly is not obvious. And what possible motive could the killer have for scalping the victims?

The Ystad murder squad is on the case, led by Wallander, and, painstakingly, they work through the few clues they have, hoping for a break. When the break comes, Wallander, naturally, berates himself because he did not see the solution sooner.

The Wallander series is mesmerizing in an odd way, a bit like a train wreck. The reader can't turn away, even if she would wish to. Henning Mankell spins a good yarn and he's cornered the market for tales of dour, sad-sack Swedish policemen.
Profile Image for Juan Nalerio.
457 reviews76 followers
April 4, 2019
Los libros de Wallander se leen despacio, como las investigaciones de Kurt.
De a poco, sin grandes sobresaltos, se van encontrando los hilos que anulan las pistas falsas.

Como en toda la saga, Wallander se nos presenta humano y querible. Por eso lo seguimos leyendo.
Profile Image for Alejandra Arévalo.
508 reviews1,292 followers
May 29, 2022
Híjole, este sí me hizo sacar la lagrimita con el final. Cada vez quiero más a nuestro detective y cada vez se va incrementando lo mucho que el mundo se va a la mierda. Me parece muy interesante que el asesino de este libro está entre los límites de la maldad (en el sentido que puede o no tener razón) y también cómo la historia te va proponiendo cuestionar a las víctimas de este asesino ¿merecían morir? uffff, estoy muy enamorada de esta saga negra.
Profile Image for Lobstergirl.
1,715 reviews1,242 followers
May 28, 2010
This one felt a little phoned-in, plot and character-wise. Also, it was summer in Ystad, and I missed the cold, windy, dreary, dark Skånean winters of earlier books. Third, I'm not a fan of introducing the killer at the outset (though his identity isn't revealed until halfway through). It dissipates rather than enhances the drama. The only mystery was whether the killer would come after Kurt and Linda.

The third star is because I enjoy reading about Wallander's laundry dilemmas.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,666 reviews202 followers
August 18, 2016
Much better than the first Wallander book, imo! I read and listened to this and prefer the translation in this Kindle edition. Not only because of some of the word choices but it also had many little details that the audiobook translation omitted. None of them were crucial to the plot but they added to the overall feeling of the book. Maybe the fact that it had a different cover was a hint about the different translation! (see below for the cover I had from Amazon for this ASIN)

Mankell wrote this in a manner that makes the culprit clear to the reader long before Wallander and his team figure it out. Normally I don't care much for that style of mystery, as it removes the puzzle aspect of the book and turns it into more of a thriller, but it worked very well in this case.

Tne cover my Kindle edition from Amazon had:

Profile Image for Briana.
10 reviews1 follower
January 20, 2010
This was the very first Wallander book I ever read. While it started out rather gripping (any time a person lights themselves on fire in the middle of an open field, you have my attention) but I felt that it got a tiny bit slow, just as all the Wallander books do. I mean, most of them are pretty straight forward police procedurals. To be quite honest, the only reason that I keep coming back to Henning Mankell's stories is because I like Kurt Wallander so much. The stories themselves don't seem to be anything overly special, but the main character is oddly likeable inspite of being a grump and borderline slob. I find myself reading just because I like Kurt. I'd say that Sidetracked was one of the better Wallander novels that I've read. I mean, who doesn't love self-immolation, hatchet murders, and scalpings? If you are already into mysteries, why not give this one a shot?
Profile Image for Ed.
869 reviews114 followers
October 8, 2008
This offering by Swedish author, Henning Mankell, featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander, is difficult to categorize.

Is it a Mystery? It's mysterious in the sense that there are many surprises along the way but it's not really a classic Mystery because reader knows who the killer is long before Wallander does.

Is it a Police Procedural? Sort of since the reader is privy to how the police go about their work but only to highlight Wallander's thinking.

Is it a Thriller? Wallander is targeted by the killer and his daughter is stalked. He and another policeman are shot at and Wallander's companion is wounded. However these events comprise a very small part of the book.

Is it a Psychological Study? Mankell spends a lot of time exploring Wallander's thinking as he tries to solve the murders and the sub-plot involving his relationships with his woman friend, his daughter and his father are well documented from his point of view. Yet, the thrust of the story is not to analyze why Wallander thinks the way he does but rather to explore his thought processes as they occur.

In the end, it really doesn't matter because the story of the search for a serial killer is totally absorbing on its own.

This particular offering is a good example of the best that Mankell has to offer: literature offered up as a detective story.

Profile Image for Agnieszka.
12 reviews
April 12, 2008
This has been my first book by Mankell and there is going to be more. Not only because I love crime novels, but also because the book was simlpy a great page-turner, one-day read. I could not stop: eating, drinking, sleeping were not the part of my daily routine any more.

Inspector Wallander makes mistakes, gets sidetracked and so what? This only adds excitement to the story even more so as there is a mad serial killer at large. As I believe telling a plot of a detective story spoils the whole fun, I am not going to say a single word more about it.

I admit I decided to read the book because I have seen one or two episodes of the TV series based on Mankell's books, but even though I was really more interested in listening to the beauty of Swedish language (which I can't understand) than in what was actually going on, still I could not help being attracted to the story and the characters. And so I got my first book by Mankell, which in fact happens to be the fourth or so of the series. So much more to read. Is it not great?

Profile Image for Donna.
3,903 reviews20 followers
May 1, 2016
This is my first novel by Henning Mankell. He's a Swedish author, so I expected a little more cultural inserts, but there didn't seem to be any. But in spite of that, I liked this. It felt well thought out and I was glued to it. It wasn't a whodunit, because that was revealed early on. But it was about connecting recent deaths in the area, that seemed unrelated.

The characters were great too. I did the audio and Dick Hill did a great job with the narration and I think that helped with my impression of the characters.

My only real complaint about this book is that the transitions (between scenes or ending conversations) were a little clunky and awkward. It led to some unnecessary descriptions of things that offered no bearing or clarification. I'm just not a fan of that....it is just a little pet peeve of mine.

Overall, I liked this and look forward to reading more.
Profile Image for AC.
1,693 reviews
August 10, 2012
This is an excellent Wallender book, very carefully and intricately constructed. That the book works so well is quite a feat since there is no mystery as to who the murderer is. Mankell avoids melodrama, even when the opportunity offered itself, and continues to develop and deepen several key characters. He is a patient writter, and 420 pages is a lot to ask for from a reader of genre - hence, the missing star. But my interest never flagged. Mankell fans should appreciate this one, if approached in a leisurely manner.
Profile Image for Mark.
279 reviews42 followers
June 27, 2019
This is almost a 5 star read for me and probably the best in the series so far. The thing I like about Kurt Wallander is that he is believable and authentic. He’s skillful but modest, getting older and increasingly cranky.. a real human.

This fifth installment in the Wallander series builds in intensity throughout. It’s well paced and the story line is fairly believable too. The ending wasn’t quite right for me for some reason - hence the 4 stars. Overall fantastic tho
1,645 reviews21 followers
August 4, 2021
I started reading Mankell's Wallander series in 2016, around the time of a trip to Sweden. I read the first four books, but then was somehow Sidetracked...or rather, I was sidetracked from Sidetracked. A lot of the details faded in five years of reading hundreds of other books, so I came in remembering: with or without a grouse, a series with a lot more international connections than I would have expected, and a general sense of Wallander's state of mind / connection with job and family. Diving into the text, I recognized the nods to the past four books, as Wallander crosses paths with some characters and deals with his co-workers...though some of the finer details evaded my reading. Oy...getting sidetracked here.

Part of the pleasure I get from reading books from another country are the tiny details that point to a different approach. For example, summer vacations are critical, so a thread of drama is built upon the distractions of officers who are either on vacation, planning their vacation, or returning from their vacation...and how to staff the investigation of a serial axe murderer to fit with the vacation schedules (and the World Cup games).

The bulk of the work is about Wallander, how he works, how he moves through the world, and how he handles his relationships. And how he does this with a serial axe murderer on the loose. The ending is quite powerful, especially with some reflection.

I'll move onto book 6 later this year and hopefully wrap up the back half of the series in 2021.

A few notes/quotes:
--"He hadn't said a single thing that was true during the entire interview, he thought with satisfaction. This was one of the few things that still held any interest for him. To deceive without being discovered. To continue with the pretence. After all his years as a politician he realised all that was left was the lie. The truth disguised as a lie or the lie dressed up as the truth."

--"windcheater" - another country's name for a "windbreaker" jacket

--Wallander is at a crime scene for a long time. The victim and crime happened outside the victim's house. Victim dead and Wallander hungry, Wallander "...went to the kitchen and turned on the light....He opened the refrigerator and took out a piece of cheese and a beer. He found some crispbread in one of the cupboards, and sat down at the kitchen table and ate..." This seems strange to read about getting a snack in a victim's kitchen while the crime scene work happens nearby!

--vacation intersects with murder: "The worst thing possible has happened. We've had a murder during the summer holiday. We'll have to organize ourselves as best we can. We also have the Midsummer holiday coming up that will keep the uniformed officers busy. We'll have to plan our investigation with this in mind."

--Life before smartphones: They need to find information about a location in another country, so send someone out to a bookstore to buy an atlas.

--"For some strange reason Swedes love to read about crime when they're on holiday."

--"Then everything seemed much easier. It wasn't the first time in his life he had started his day with a bunch of white lies, evasions and self-deceptions."

--And most importantly: "With or without the grouse."
Profile Image for Ελένη Αθανασίου.
101 reviews9 followers
October 3, 2017
Ενα 5άρι στον μεγάλο, τον τεράστιο, στον τόσο αγαπημένο μου Μανκέλ. Ενα βιβλίο για το πώς πρέπει να γράφονται τα αστυνομικά μυθιστορήματα, πώς να σκιαγραφούνται οι ήρωες και πώς να εξελίσσεται η έρευνα. Ούτε μια λέξη περιττή, ούτε μια σκηνή αδιάφορη. Ο Κουρτ Βαλάντερ ήρεμος και μοναχικός παλεύει με μια ηθική αξιοθαύμαστη, αλλά τόσο μελαγχολική.
Profile Image for Hilary G.
326 reviews12 followers
May 28, 2013
Having recently said that I didn't like Harry Hole as much as Kurt Wallander, I thought it was only fair to do a closer comparison, so having just read a Jo Nesbo, I read a Henning Mankell. I thought this was necessary because I have watched so much Wallander on TV (the British series with Kenneth Branagh and the even better original series with Krister Henriksson), I could have been influenced and made an unfair comparison. Having read Sidetracked, I am happy to confirm my impression that Wallander is a more rounded, more complex character than Harry Hole, but must add that this is based on reading only one Harry Hole story. That said,there was a lot of similarity. The same taste for really brutal crimes, for a start. I've also rated both 3 stars as there wasn't THAT much difference between as a good read.

Sidetracked is a good story. It isn't perfect and contains a lot of loose ends and things that aren't followed through, but this reflects the investigation, and indeed life, in which some of the answers will forever remain obscure. I think this is one of the best detective novels for giving the message that there is really no satisfaction in solving the case because the victims are still dead and the damage done cannot be undone. Wallander and his colleagues identify the murderer, but never really get to the bottom of what caused his aberrant behaviour. The psychologist attached to the crime team offered vague suggestions based on previous experience or written research, but we never really know, and I think this is better than explanations that are really just theories.

Wallander is an interesting character. We see a little, but not too much of his family relationships. Some are only hinted at (the ex-wife, and the daughter, to some extent) and some approached more closely (the father). There is a new-ish love interest, that isn't intrusive but illuminates Wallander's character. There are interesting work relationships - the mentor (past boss), the colleagues (Nyborg is especially interesting), counterparts from other police stations, and even the witnesses and victims. The overall impression is of someone who is fundamentally decent, who makes mistakes, but honestly tries to do his best. I really like Kurt Wallander and can see why he is a character interesting enough to meet in novel after novel.

I wasn't really sure about the end of the story, whether it was a whimper rather than a bang, but on reflection, I thought it was appropriate because this was a story about the detective not about the murderer.

I have read a lot of crime fiction and think that, if I ranked them, this would be in the top half of the list. It was a satisfying read and I look forward to reading more by Henning Mankell next time I feel like reading some crime fiction.

Profile Image for Vichy.
677 reviews44 followers
February 1, 2015
Τι κοινό μπορεί να έχει ο Γκίστοφ Βέτερστεντ, ένας πρώην υπουργός Δικαιοσύνης, ο Άρνε Κάρλμαν, ένας έμπορος έργων τέχνης, ο Μπγερν Φρέντμαν, ένας κλεπταποδόχος και ο Όκε Λίλιεγκρεν, ένας οικονομικός απατεώνας; Πέραν του γεγονότος ότι βρίσκονται δολοφονημένοι από τσεκούρι και χωρίς σκαλπ... Το αστυνομικό τμήμα του Ίσταντ, με επικεφαλής τον Κουρτ Βαλάντερ έρχεται να δώσει απαντήσεις. Η πορεία των ερευνών δε βαδίζει όπως θα έπρεπε καθώς το ένα χτύπημα ακολουθεί το άλλο. Έχουν να κάνουν με έναν serial killer που δρα τυχαία ή με κάποιο κίνητρο; Την αυτοπυρπόληση μιας 17χρονης στο χωράφι του ηλικιωμένου Σαλομόνσον, την ταυτότητα της οποίας δεν ξέρουν, ο Βαλάντερ θα αρχίσει να συνδέει μόνο όταν βγαίνουν στη φόρα τα άπλυτα του τέταρτου θύματος και με τη βοήθεια του επιθεωρητή του Χέλσινμπορι, Βάλντεμαρ Σγέστεν...

Η ιστορία παράλληλα ασχολείται και με τον τριπλό ρόλο του Βαλάντερ ως γονιού, ως παιδιού και ως συντρόφου. Η σχέση του με την κόρη του Λίντα, με το πατέρα του που είναι στα πρόθυρα Άλτσαχαϊμερ και ετοιμάζονται για το ταξίδι στην Ιταλία και τη σχέση του με την Μπάιμπα από τη Ρίγα και το προγραμματισμένο ταξίδι διακοπών τους που απειλείται να αναβληθεί λόγω της υπόθεσης που καθυστερεί να λυθεί. Το ταξίδι τους θα γίνει αφού η υπόθεση τελειώνει

Το Βαλάντερ είναι γεγονός ότι δε τον συγκαταλέγω στους αγαπημένους μου ντετέκτιβ. Δεν έχει τίποτα το ιδιαίτερο πλην της αυστηρότητας που τον χαρακτηρίζει και της καταθλιπτικότητας που αποπνέει. Ο συγγραφέας, όμως, τον εμπλέκει σε ενδιαφέρουσες ιστορίες που σε προκαλούν να τις διαβάσεις...
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,923 reviews732 followers
August 4, 2009
#5 in the Kurt Wallander series, it is time for our favorite detective to take a much-needed vacation. However, summer fun has to be put on hold as Wallander is called out to a farm where a girl has been loitering in the fields. As he goes out to talk to her, she pours gasoline all over herself and lights a match. Not long afterwards, there's a murder in which the former Minister of Justice has his skull sliced in two by an axe. And if those were the only two crimes, maybe Wallander could go have some fun, but alas, it is not to be, as the body count goes higher.

We know who the killer is not far into the story, but that's okay. The real story is about Wallander and his team trying to figure out the connections between all of the victims -- and how Wallander gets a bit "sidetracked" along the way for various reasons, not all having to do with the crime, preventing him at times from seeing obvious connections that may have helped him solve the crimes earlier, possibly saving lives. The story is more about the toll that the crimes take on Wallander and on the rest of the team.

As always, Mankell writes superbly -- the characterizations are excellent, the inner turmoil of Wallander is so palpable you could reach out and touch it.

I would definitely recommend this one. If you're following the series in order, you're going to want to continue; if you've perhaps seen the PBS production and are thinking of reading this one, do so, but do not make it the first Wallander you read. You will miss way too much in terms of Wallander's character development. I'd definitely recommend it for readers of Scandanavian mysteries and for those who perhaps want something a bit beyond what's new on the shelves today.
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