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Kurt Wallander #1

Faceless Killers

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It was a senselessly violent crime: on a cold night in a remote Swedish farmhouse an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. And as if this didn’t present enough problems for the Ystad police Inspector Kurt Wallander, the dying woman’s last word is foreign, leaving the police the one tangible clue they have–and in the process, the match that could inflame Sweden’s already smoldering anti-immigrant sentiments.

Unlike the situation with his ex-wife, his estranged daughter, or the beautiful but married young prosecuter who has piqued his interest, in this case, Wallander finds a problem he can handle. He quickly becomes obsessed with solving the crime before the already tense situation explodes, but soon comes to realize that it will require all his reserves of energy and dedication to solve.
--back cover

280 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1991

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About the author

Henning Mankell

317 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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5 stars
17,293 (24%)
4 stars
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3 stars
19,724 (27%)
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1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,834 reviews
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,086 reviews7,013 followers
June 5, 2019
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

All detectives have to have their personality quirks and personal problems to keep the story interesting. But Swedish detective Kurt Wallander has so many things going on that it would take a full hour with Dr. Phil to even make a dent.

His wife left him three months ago and she is filing for divorce. He may be falling in love with a beautiful young prosecutor, but she is married. He is estranged from his wayward daughter who travels around the world not telling her parents where she is and appearing unexpectedly for brief times. The detective’s elderly father lives alone in a farmhouse and is getting dementia, walking through the fields with suitcases in the night.


He’s also drinking too much. And gaining weight because without his wife cooking, he eats only junk food.

The main crime to be solved is the brutal torture and murder of an elderly farm couple who lived in an isolated house. The only initial clue is that the female victim said the word ‘foreigner’ just before she died. This gets leaked to the press and starts a frenzy of anti-immigrant feelings among the neo-Nazi types of Sweden who want immigration to cease and foreigners to be deported. Wallander and his team have to investigate these additional crimes as these Nazis murder one man, injure others, and set fire to a local immigrant refugee camp.


The style of the Wallander series is that of a police procedural. This book is the first in the series of eleven. I thought it was a very good mystery and better than the other one I read and reviewed, The Man Who Smiled. There’s a bit of local color of Sweden and I liked the map that allows you to follow the action around the southern section of the country, especially around Ystad, a real city where the detective is based.

Ystad from offbeattravel.com
The author (1948-2015) from irishtimes.com
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,828 followers
January 18, 2011
During one of my periodic efforts to prove to myself that I'm not one of The Great Unwashed, I watched PBS's Masterpiece Mystery series featuring the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander as played by Kenneth Branagh. (Yes, it had English actors playing Swedes and was filmed in Sweden. Just go with it.) I liked it quite a bit and since I also loved the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I decided to read some more about these murderous Swedes. And now I'm really hooked.

Written in 1990, this book introduced Wallander as a police detective in a backwater town in Sweden. When an elderly couple are brutally assualted and murdered in their rural home in an apparently motiveless crime, the initial clues make some citizens think that someone in the flood of immigrants seeking asylum following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe is responsible. A wave of anti-immigrant violence and hysteria is on the verge of being unleashed.

Wallander is having enough trouble dealing with his messy personal life. His marriage has just failed, his emotionally troubled teenage daughter flits in and out of his life, and his estranged father is showing signs of dementia. The strain of balancing his increasingly unmanageable personal life and his police work are starting to take a serious toll on him. In addition, he's constantly worried about the new wave of crime and violence he's noticed rising in Sweden.

Wallander is a great sort of every-man detective. Not brilliant in a Sherlock Holmes or Columbo kind of way, and definately not built for leaping into action against the bad guys, Wallander just comes in and attacks the tasks he thinks he needs to complete to solve the crime and get his life under control. Even though he doesn't manage to get through the list most days and experiences numerous setbacks, he just starts over again the next morning even if doesn't really feel like trying. Despite his frustrations with his own shortcomings and the government bureaucracy, Wallander manages to make progress with his steady two-steps-forward/ one-step-back method.

Good writing with an intriguing crime and a very relateable main character made this an interesting read. I'll be checking out more of the Wallander books.
Profile Image for Zain.
1,379 reviews141 followers
May 5, 2023
Violence and Bigotry!

This is the first book I’ve read by Henning Mankell. An old farmer is murdered in his home. His wife is a survivor.

The city of Ystad is in an uproar, believing that immigrants are the cause.

Kurt Wallander struggles with the paranoia of bigotry, as well as the stress of having to search for a killer.

Four stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
874 reviews1,763 followers
February 21, 2023
A good story but the detective wandered a lot and when the mystery was solved it barely took ten minutes to identify the killers and to catch them.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
November 1, 2017
Dark, brooding and earthy – like a good Swedish crime mystery should be.

Writer Henning Mankell first published Faceless Killers in 1991 and an English edition, translated by Steven T. Murray, was published in 1997. Besides being a good book, this is notable as Mankell’s introduction of his famous detective Kurt Wallander.

Set in the small city of Ystad, in the southern most tip of Sweden, and farther removed from larger cities like Malmo or Stockholm, Mankell has given this mystery a sort of small town charm, distinguished from the tense and energetic crime novels in urban settings. No ulcer ridden, overworked police chief barking orders here, or lengthy descriptions of cityscapes; the author has created an ominous, heady atmosphere of fear and simmering outrage after a murder of an elderly couple in a bucolic farming village.

In Wallander, Mankell has crafted a complicated and darkly charismatic protagonist. With his drinking, poor eating habits, surly manner and clumsy way with close relationships he is almost an anti-hero.

Well told and with a close eye for detail, Faceless Killers also deals with such issues as racism, national identity, immigration policy and individual rights. Known for his social activism, Mankell uses the crime novel as a vehicle to reveal and discuss inequalities and societal problems.

Good book.

Profile Image for Francesc.
393 reviews193 followers
October 18, 2020
Una maravilla de novela. Me encantó de principio a fin. Cansa un poco el tema del policía borracho de vida desastrosa, pero es una constante de difícil solución.
Mucha tensión narrativa. Mucha emoción.
Un Wallander genial, a pesar de todo.

A marvel of a novel. I loved it from start to finish.
A lot of narrative tension. A lot of excitement.
A great Wallander, despite everything.
Profile Image for Peter Fogtdal.
Author 20 books36 followers
October 31, 2008
Henning Mankell might be the most famous Scandinavian writer of crime novels in the US. May I humbly ask why? I can think of at least three Swedes and two Danes who are far, far superior. And let's not forget the Norwegians. Read Frederik Skagen for Christ's sake. I'm not sure he's been translated but he's brillant when it comes to the twisted mind of killers and rapists.

Actually, I don't like being hard on writer colleagues, but this book is simply not very good. The prose is flat, only two of the characters come alive for me, and I was a tiny bit bored as well. I made the mistake of teaching this novel at Portland State University and my students absolutely hated it. Every single of them. I didn't though. I like the portrait of the main character and the small meditations on immigrants and racism in Sweden.
Profile Image for notgettingenough .
1,026 reviews1,184 followers
September 29, 2009

Maybe this book is dreadfully translated...or maybe it's like Ikea furniture. Mostly you end up with a bunch of bits that don't make sense. It's a popular theory in Australia that Ikea furniture is some sort of revenge upon people who live in sunlight. Maybe Henning Mankell is a plot to get the people who escaped the Ikea trap.

We all over here prefer more Abba and less bad furniture and miserable books please.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,930 reviews10.6k followers
March 16, 2012
An elderly couple is robbed and brutally murdered and it's up to police inspector Kurt Wallander to find the killer or killers. Can Kurt act on the meager information he has available and solve the case as his private life disintegrates around him?

On the heels of reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, I decided to branch out and try a couple more Swedish crime authors. Faceless Killers is the first such book to fall into my hands.

Faceless Killers isn't a happy book, much as its title indicates. It's bleaker than a visit to an insurance office, mostly due to poor Kurt Wallander and his life.

The mystery is an intriguing one and delves into the secret life of one of the victims. The mystery is not of the solveable variety but that's ultimately not that important. My main attractions to Faceless Killers were the glimpse into Swedish society and Kurt Wallander himself.

The fact that one of Wallander's clues is that the killer is a foreigner thrusts the reader into a world of refugees, racism, and red tape. There are false leads and I have to admit I wasn't sure what was going on in the investigation part of the time.

And that brings us to Kurt Wallander himself. He's no super-hero unless lonliness and not having anything go right in his personal life is a super power. He's getting older and fatter, his wife left him, his daughter is a stranger, his relationship with his father is strained, and all he has is his job. Instead of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, what I was primarily reminded of when I read this was John Lutz's Alo Nudger series starring a similarly sad character.

Faceless Killers is a good police procedural story. It's pretty bleak and moves a little slowly for my tastes but is still a good read. I'll give it a 3, possibly upgrading to a 4 somewhere down the line.

Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 410 books674 followers
May 10, 2013
Sjajan švedski autor, najpre ga je objavljivala Narodna knjiga a sada Čarobna knjiga... Da ne govorimo o Kenetu Brani koji je presonalizovao britansku verziju serijala o inspektoru Valanderu... :) Za ljubitelje dobrih krimića... I da malo upoznate i Švedsku... :)
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
June 16, 2019
I think I understand Kurt Wallander better now than I did when I read the series in my mid-twenties.

It isn't all that easy to grow older, more tired and disillusioned in Sweden. After all, we're supposed to be a role model for others, and what if nothing works out here? Marriage, work, parenting, fitness, happiness, all those things come crashing down on us here in our welfare system as well, and then it is dark and rainy most of the time, and just before Midsummer, we all get the odd nostalgic feeling that "it is going to turn next week", and get darker again bit by bit, and that ruins summer (not entirely, but like a ticking time bomb). Who can deal with rising crime rates and mystery in a climate like this?

Maybe we produce and read so much crime fiction to vent the dark melancholia stemming from knowing that life's difficult here as well, despite the good reputation we suffer from but don't live up to?
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,915 followers
April 3, 2011
This is the first entry in Henning Mankell's series featuring Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. When we first meet him, Wallander has a boatload of personal problems: he is recently divorced; he's estranged from his daughter; he's drinking too much; he has a lousy diet, and his father is showing signs of senility.

Against the backdrop of this troubled personal life, Wallandar is assigned to lead the investigation of the savage murder or an elderly farm couple. There is no apparent motive and there are virtually no clues, save for the last dying word of the murdered woman, which is "Foreign."

At the time of the killings, some Swedes are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the large numbers of asylum-seekers and other immigrants who are making their way into the country. Fear and prejudice are on the rise, and although the police have absolutely no evidence to support such a conclusion, some anti-immigrant elements jump to the conclusion that foreigners were responsible for the killings. They want revenge and they seek to use the murders as an excuse to reverse the immigrant tide.

Mankell thus sets the stage for a clever police procedural set against the larger social issue of how welcoming Sweden--or any other country--should be to growing numbers of immigrants. Wallander is typical of the breed of plodding Scandinavian detectives who refuse to give up until they have deduced the solution to the case. At times, though, you find yourself wondering why he soldiers along in the face of the overwhelming personal problems in his life off-duty.

Mankell is a very good writer and I admire what he has done here. That said, I find the Kurt Wallander character to be a little too oppressed and a little too humorless for my taste. Like a lot of Scandinavian mysteries, this one takes place in the dead of a long, depressing winter, which only reinforces the generally depressing mood of the book as a whole. I enjoyed reading it, and I'm certainly willing to give the series another try, but I may need a jolt of someone like Lucas Davenport to cheer me up a bit first.
Profile Image for Lynne King.
490 reviews658 followers
August 17, 2014
There's something about Swedish authors that both fascinates me and tugs at my heartstrings. Henning Mankell does indeed do that for me with his Inspector Kurt Wallander.

The air of suspense begins with the words:

“He has forgotten something, he knows that for sure when he wakes up. Something he dreamt during the night. Something he ought to remember. He tries to remember. But sleep is like a black hole. A well that reveals nothing of its contents.”

And this same suspense kept me utterly enthralled through to the last page where I came face to face with a remarkable and yet unexpected dénouement.

We soon discover that a gruesome murder has taken place in a farm, with only a neighbouring farmhouse, outside the sleepy village of Lunnarp.

A seventy year old man wakes up at 4.45 am. He’s surprised because normally he sleeps later but he knows there’s something wrong. He cannot hear his friend and neighbour’s horse whinnying. He investigates and discovers a “slaughter-house” next door.

When Inspector Wallander arrives at the crime scene and observes the atrocities committed on the elderly couple, Maria and and Johannes Lövgren, he’s determined come what may to find the murderers. He’s convinced somehow that more than one person is involved.

There are two elements that intrigue him. Why was a noose hanging around Maria’s neck and why would the horse have been fed in the stable? Johannes has regrettably been killed but Maria clings on to life for a while in the hospital. Prior to her death, she mentions an odd word. It is this word that is to be the clue in the who, what, when, where, why equation.

With dogged determination, following every conceivable avenue, deductive reasoning and going by his intuition, a frustrated Wallander continues in his investigation. There are many false leads and dead ends. Was it a robbery? Did the couple have money? Enemies? Wrong suspects are interviewed. The investigation is indeed frustrating for everyone involved and time-consuming, spreading over a six month period.

That’s the outline but it’s the simple and fascinating text and the attention to detail that I’m so taken with. There’s the main plot but then the sub-plot showing the personal aspects of Wallander’s life. I truly empathised with him. His wife Mona had left him three months ago and was in the process of divorcing him, his nineteen year old daughter Linda wants nothing more to do with him after a failed suicide attempt when she was fifteen. He is constantly arguing with his widowed father, a painter, who continuously paints more or less the same picture, may add a grouse or a tree to make it slightly different but still manages to sell them. He has been painting the same motif all his life in fact. He’s becoming confused and Wallander feels that he shouldn’t be left in the house, that’s isolated, all on his own. He’s also losing touch with his sister Kristina.

Wallander drinks too much, is overweight through eating too many pizzas and the like, since Mona left him, loves his opera, especially Maria Callas and Traviata, is loyal to his colleagues at the Ystad police station, especially Rydberg who suffers badly from rheumatism and uses a cane; is constantly wondering how he can improve his lot and especially his relationships with his family. Works long hours, suffers from loneliness and seems to have a constantly bruised face from fights and the like and yet I loved his character so much.

His mantra was “a time to live and a time to die”. “He had adopted this incantation many years ago, when he was a young policeman, cruising the streets of Malmö, his home town. A drunk had pulled out a big butcher’s knife as he and his partner were trying to take him away……Wallander was stabbed deep, right next to his heart. A few millimetres were all that saved him from an untimely death. He had been twenty-three then, suddenly profoundly aware of what it meant to be a policeman. The incantation was his way of fending off the memories.”

The Swedish elements also add to the drama, winds, darkness, snow, temperatures below freezing point… There was the backdrop of many refugee camps, with people looking for asylum. Violence was increasing.

There is definitely an air of gloom that pervades this book but I still love it:

“Overnight a storm moved in across Skåne. Kurt Wallander was sitting in his untidy flat as the winter wind tore at the roof tiles, drinking whisky and listening to a German recording of Aïda, when everything went dark and silent. He went over to the window and looked out into the darkness. The wind was howling, and somewhere an advertising sign was banging against a wall.”

There’s some light relief thrown in when Wallander meets the deputy public prosecutor, a married woman called Anette Brolin. His instincts tell him that he should not get involved with her and yet...

This is the first in the Kurt Wallander series. I don't really like series too much as they tend, well in my opinion anyway, to become like a template. But yes I will read number 2!

All in all, a fantastic book and reading more about Henning Mankell, I see that he has had cancer since the beginning of this year and is currently having treatment. I wish him well and I’m quite sure that he’ll make a good recovery. Treatment has improved and advanced so much from what it was even ten years ago. New life-saving treatments are constantly being found…
Profile Image for Tim.
2,133 reviews200 followers
February 3, 2019
Hoped this would be better. 5 of 10 stars
Profile Image for Ben Loory.
Author 25 books679 followers
January 19, 2011
it was 15 pages before the end before anyone in the police department thought to follow the most obvious trail. i mean i'm not even trying to solve the case, i'm just lying in bed sick, idly flipping 250 pages, but i'm ahead of these people? pretty sad. in the meantime there's no suspense, the characters are dull, and the scenes are boring and poorly written. nice title, though, i suppose... can't imagine reading more of these...
Profile Image for gwayle.
661 reviews49 followers
August 30, 2010
Do these get better? I flew through this first in the Kurt Wallander series, but the writing was squarely in the spectrum of unremarkable to outright you've-got-to-be-kidding-me. The police officers are barely differentiated (Wallander himself is the only one with any character traits to speak of, and he comes across as kind of a schmuck), and the book cries out for description and emotion. Not really psychological and only half-heartedly political, this novel strikes me as gratuitous and forgettable.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,179 reviews618 followers
July 18, 2015
Although familiar with Swedish detective Kurt Wallender from the popular BBC series, this is the first of Henning Mankell's books that I have read. And what an excellent read it was. Mankell writes in a very spare, no-frills way to tell a story that is clear and absorbing.
Wallender is a man whose life is in a mess; his wife has left him, his daughter is estranged, his father is becoming senile and Wallender himself is lonely, drinking to much and eating badly. However he is always focused on the job and his best breakthroughs come from following his intuition and allowing his subconscious to muse over problems. The novel starts with a horrendous crime. An old farmer and his wife brutally tortured and left for dead on a freezing January night in the depths of the country. No one has seen anything and although the farmer's wife is found still just alive she manages to say only the word "foreign" before dying.
Wallender struggles to get a grip on this terrible crime and the clues are teased out one by one over a period of months with still no breakthrough. The dying woman's word "foreign" sparks a series of crimes against refugees highlightling the uneasiness felt by some Swedes over the openness of their borders and whether the Government is doing enough to screen immigrants to determine if they are genuine refugees, economic migrants or those escaping their own justice system.
All in all I thought this was an excellent police procedural, realistically showing the patience and determination often required to solve a major crime with few clues to go on. I enjoyed Henning's straightforward writing style and his empathy with his characters.
Profile Image for فهد الفهد.
Author 1 book4,768 followers
April 19, 2017
قاتل بلا وجه

القراءة في السفر قراءة مشتتة، تقرأ صفحات قليلة ومن ثم تسقط نائماً في الطائرة، أو تنهض لتواصل المسير في شوارع ضيقة لمدينة قديمة، أو ربما تحاول اللحاق بقطار يفترض به أن يأخذك إلى قلعة تفوح برائحة الأسرى والدماء، فلذا يبدو الكتاب – أي كتاب – متشظياً في السفر، مظلوماً بكل هذه القراءة المتقطعة، فلذا جنحت في السنوات الأخيرة إلى الروايات البوليسية، فطبيعة هذا النوع وسرعة الاندماج فيه عندما يكون مكتوباً بشكل جيد تناسب السفر وظروفه أكثر.

أخذت هذه الرواية معي في رحلة قصيرة إلى برشلونة، وفرغت منها قبل هبوط رحلة العودة بدقائق، كانت بالنسبة لي مدخلاً جديداً للأدب البوليسي الاسكندنافي والذي قرأت فيه من قبل لأسماء مثل أرلندور إندرايدسون وجو نيسبو وأنوي القراءة لآخرين، وكنت قد قرأت كذلك مقالات وشاهدت محاضرات تحاول تحليل وتعليل نمو أدب الجريمة الاسكندنافي، وهل يعني هذا أن دولة الرفاه فشلت في هذه المجتمعات؟ أم أن هذه الجرائم تأتي من طبقة المهاجرين الفقيرة؟ سيلاحظ كل من قرأ هذه الرواية أن هذه الأسئلة ترد في الكتاب بشكل مباشر، فالمحقق كورت فلاندر يتساءل طيلة الوقت عن السياسة السويدية للهجرة والتي سمحت لمجموعة من رجال العصابات الأوروبية الشرقية بالتسرب للداخل السويدي، فيما يلاحق جريمة قتل بشعة ذهب ضحيتها زوجان عجوزان، تلفظ أح��هما قبل موته بكلمة (أجانب)، وهذا ما أشعل الأوضاع في المجتمع وجعل مخيمات اللاجئين تتعرض للهجوم من قبل نازيين الجدد، كما تعرض مهاجر صومالي للقتل بدم بارد، من الذي ارتكب هذه الجريمة؟ كيف يمكن لفالاندر أن يحل القضية في خضم كل ما يتعرض له من مشاكل عملية وعائلية.

الرواية لها ذلك الطابع الواقعي والبارد للأدب الاسكندنافي، وهو طابع ساحر وأكثر جذباً من النموذج الأمريكي الحركي والسريع والذي يصعب ابتلاعه دائماً.
Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,211 reviews52 followers
April 26, 2023
Read for the second time, audio book this time.
First time 5 stars
Second time 4 stars
December 16, 2016
Faceless Killers marked the debut appearance of the dyspeptic Ystad detective, Kurt Wallander, and although the Swedish language version was written in 1991, the English translation did not follow until 1997. Given that my previous meeting with Wallander came in the form of the final novella of the series, I am struck by how much more gloomy and self-pitying the character seems to be in this first case, noticeably disposed to wallowing. From his early days as a new recruit in Malmö through to twenty-years later and now in a more remote area and smaller city, Wallander is in a prime position to observe the changing patterns of crime over the years, both their nature and their prevalence. At forty-two-years old he shouldn't feel as apathetic as he does, but with a separation from his wife, sporadic contact and relations with his daughter, Linda, and with a father characterised by erratic mood changes and almost impossible expectations, he doesn't have much to smile about. Lonely, living on junk food and blighted by lack of sleep, Wallander's family dilemmas seem to occupy as much of his focus as the brutal double murder of elderly Johannes and Maria Lövgrens in Lunnarp, a "village where life flows along the creek without vigour or intent". A double murder and an ensuing manhunt which soon triggers another murder...

January 7, 1990 in the county of Skåne with snow yet to fall, there is something far more chilling awaiting Wallander at the isolated farmhouse in Lunnarp he is sent to. What greets him is a bloodbath; a scene of such brutal violence that he cannot remember being so appalled previously in his entire career. With retired farmer Johannes already dead and his wife, Maria, left in a noose and clinging to life, Wallander struggles to comprehend just what can have brought such an act to bear on the remote farmhouse. Neither wealthy or known to keep valuables, surely the brutality speaks of a act of revenge and hatred? Rushing Maria to hospital, a bedside vigil is instituted in the hope that as the only witness she can provide a potential clue to the identity of her attackers. As she draws her final breath she repeats the word "foreign" on several occasions and opens a can of worms that threaten peace and stability across Sweden. When this detail anonymously finds its way into the public domain, the rebuttal from the police is not enough to stop a series of attacks swiftly being launched at the growing number of camps which hold the illegal immigrant influx. As Wallander himself receives several phone calls threatening retribution and events climax with a immigrant being shot dead, the police come under fire from all angles, all distracting them from the atrocity which unleashed the furore. When Johannes Lövgren is revealed to be a richer man with a much more complicated past than previously foreseen, the police are powerless too subvert a wave of nationalistic sentiment sweeping the country.

For all that this novel does include it is a little lacking in pace and the actual investigation seems more like a vehicle for Mankell to make wider statements on society through the character of Kurt Wallander. The distinct benefit of this is just how realistic the investigation feels as it stalls to eventual deadlock and grinds to a halt on several occasions before a series of seemingly innocuous details picked up through the course of the investigation deliver an eventual resolution over six-months later. Mankell links these fortuitous discoveries together over the course of the novel and the eventual solution delivers the same satisfaction as found in Roseanna by Sjöwall and Wahlöö

Faceless Killers is not just about introducing the character of Wallander, it is just as much focused on making wider statements about the changes becoming noticeable in the Sweden of the early 1990's; significantly the increasing trend towards a country marked by less of a contrast between city and rural areas in terms of the crime experience and reflecting how the effects of open borders have increased the prevalence of organised crime. Now seen as a seminal series and something of a prototype for the genre it is easy to be critical in hindsight but in comparison to some of the more recent novels of the genre, I did feel this novel lacked a little subtlety. Mankell seems to feel the need to point out the tranquility of the village that the murder take place in, whereas now the social commentary is less signposted, more a drip-feed trickling into a readers subconscious and altogether less heavy-handed.

When the Immigration Services minister appears on national TV arguing that the police have a lack of interest in ensuring the safety of immigrants it is easy to see how the media angle can be skewed to stir up fractious tempers and cause further unrest. It was admirable to see that throughout the course of this investigation both Wallander and his colleagues used the situation to study the effects of immigration on Sweden and the prevailing attitudes, pondering more widely on the debate leading Wallander to conclude that the Immigration Services, the government and the media all have something to answer for as events spiral out of control.

For all his distractions throughout the case, Wallander is a tenacious detective and a policeman to the very core. He shows an admirable willingness to undertake surveillance operations which budgets are unlikely to permit and to go the extra mile for the eventual solution. Frustrations are never very far from the surface and Wallander is full of self-reproach, lambasting himself for what he sees as mistakes along the way. A man of firm beliefs, he decries the erosion of law and order and just how his job has changed from simply protecting people and their property to attempting to moderate the increasing level of fear which pervades through society. On the basis of this first case, Wallander would have even needed to lighten up for me to stay with him! Morose and maudlin investigators with a wry cynicism are all well and good, but the bleakness of Wallander in this affair was pretty unremitting. Wallander is brilliantly flawed, prone to rushing in and making hasty decisions and seeing things through telling slightly more rose-tinted spectacles vista vis his distant wife. For instance, does he really miss Mona as his wife or simply as a companion who ensured he ate properly and kept him 'in functioning order'? Given his erotic dreams and pursuit of the attractive deputy prosecuting attorney, Anette Brolin, it seems more likely that he was wilfully blind to his own emotions and delaying facing the truth. Interestingly Wallander does concede that the fragmentation of his family is something he could have halted, growing apart from his wife and losing connection with his daughter at fifteen when the marriage was floundering.

Thankfully, the ending of Faceless Killers nicely coincides with an uptick in the fortunes of Wallander with an improvement in familial relations, a potential romance and a pay rise amounting to 39 kroner per month! Sadly as Wallander himself recognises, a new era has dawned which demands a different kind of policeman and that old world will never return. The question is can Wallander adapt?
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
May 30, 2014
One of those books that I thought I would not like but ended up really liking.

I am not really a big fan of mystery whodunnit books but this one really hooked me from start to finish. The plot is not really focused on who the killer is but on the main protagonist and his life: aging, just divorced, daughter's not communicating to him, father's getting senile, getting fat, postponing his diet, drinking and driving and all of the other matters that make him human and vulnerable. Of course, you'd like to find out who the killer is but that's was secondary to me. I think this is also the first book (1001 or not) that I've read with Sweden as the setting and I found it interesting because I have not been there. Prior to this book, the images of Sweden in my mind were either those beautiful Ms. Universe contestants, milk products with cows and young smiling girls holding a glass of milk on their covers. Funny but that was Sweden in my mind.

Why did I think that I would not like this? Oh, Robert Langdon. I got tired of him. But Kurt Wallander is different. His being an inspector (a detective) is just about any job in the office. As I read this in the past 5 working days, I could not help relate what he goes through to what I am going through in the office. There are times that even if I put everything I have (full attention, extended working hours, extensive research), there are just some things that would not work and at the time when everything looks hopeless, comes a spark of inspiration or a word, a phrase uttered by someone (in my case, my boss) that made me think: right, why did I not think of doing it that way? In Wallander's case, it was that

Except for Inferno (to-be-read), I read all Dan Brown books and Robert Langdon was okay in The Da Vinci Code (2 stars) and fascinating in Angels & Demons (3 stars) but ridiculously irritating in The Lost Symbol (1 star). He is alike rah-rah detective always running around going from one building to another and chasing killers. I just got tired of him. Here, Inspector Kurt Wallander is like you and me. He drives a car sometimes even drunk as he is missing his wife but dreams of other sexy babes. Hehe. Why, we men all do that, right? We love our wives but still have hots for pretty ladies we meet. I mean, Wallander is all too human for you not to relate to him. In the end when I repeatedly says to his dying friend, "I made too many mistakes" I would like to go to the book and hug him as I want to say: "Me too."

Easy read. Straightforward narration. Big font. No big words. All loose ends tied up tight in the end. Everything plausible. Human characters. No caricaturists. Not pretentious at all. Not trying hard to impress. Just plain wonderful storytelling.

First in the series and I will surely be watching out for the rest.

Profile Image for miss.bookblogger.
317 reviews25 followers
March 23, 2022
Este libro me ha trasportado a la novela negra de antes: la de investigaciones llenas de dudas y con supuestos nuevos en cada capítulo y la que se centra en el crimen y búsqueda del asesino. El inspector Wallander es su personaje estrella. Un hombre sencillo, con sus problemillas de la edad, con capacidad resolutiva y a la vez empático en lo personal. Un sabueso al que no se le escapa una.

Esta novela es el inicio de una saga muy larga, con el mismo protagonista. Cada libro tiene un caso concreto que resolver y un cierre final. Me ha gustado mucho la manera que tuvo el autor de mezclar un caso policial con asuntos importantes que sucedían en Suecia en la época. Creo que era su manera de hacer denuncia social.

Asesinos sin rostro es un libro con capítulos cortos, los cuales te lees del tirón, tiene partes más adictivas que otras, pero no pierde ritmo. Es una buena opción para seguir leyendo en el género negro o introducirse en él. No va a ser el libro de mi vida, pero si me ha despertado curiosidad para seguir leyendo más del autor.
Profile Image for Peter.
602 reviews84 followers
February 14, 2021
"Justice doesn't only mean that people who commit crime are punished. It also means that we can never give up seeking the truth."

'Faceless Killers' is the first in the Kurt Wallander series of books. Wallander's life is a mess: his wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him and even his own father barely tolerates him. Wallander eats badly, buries himself in work and drinks his nights away in loneliness.

Early one freezing January morning a farmer discovers that his neighbours Johannes and Maria Lövgren have been brutally attacked. Johannes Lövgren is dead, and Maria is barely alive. Ystad Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team are called to investigate.

Initially there seems no reason why the Lövgrens have been so brutally attacked, they didn't appear wealthy and nothing valuable seems to have been taken. When Maria Lövgren dies, uttering the word "foreign" with her dying breath, Wallander and his team are left with an additional problem. There are several migrant camps in the vicinity and anti-immigration sentiment in the local populace is already running high, so when word leaks out that the Lövgrens may have been killed by foreigners, emotions can only escalate. So when a Somali immigrant is shot Wallander find himself with another murder on his hands and a race against time to prevent others.

As the police look more deeply into the Lövgren case they find that there was more to Johannes Lövgren than it appeared and there are facts about him that even his wife didn't know. Whilst the murder of the refugee has political ramifications of its own. Meanwhile Wallander is having problems of his own.

Police procedure, as the members of the team collect evidence, conduct interviews and follow leads, is central to this novel and gets a realistic impression of how very long it can take to solve a case. There are long hours; the public, press and superiors to satisfy, dogged footwork to be done but there is also a real sense of camaraderie. All of the cops work long hours but still take time to look out for each other.

Kurt Wallander himself is an interesting character. He has had some hard blows in his life but is reflective rather than bitter and doesn't waste his time complaining about it. He’s a very human character who makes mistakes during investigation but through sheer tenacity and devotion to duty still manages to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Given that this was first published some thirty years ago it still feels fresh and relevant. Despite the fact that it takes a while to solve the actual crime the action still flows at a reasonable pace and doesn't get too bogged at any point. But that's not to say that I didn't have a few minor gripes. Wallander is too often conveniently in the right spot at the right time and gets too personally involved in chasing up leads than I believe an officer of his rank should be, whilst his relationship with the prosecutor seems a little strange. This isn't a genre that I would normally reach for but overall I found 'Faceless Killers' a realistic crime novel with an interesting protagonist and I will certainly look out for others in the series.
Profile Image for Nigel.
161 reviews30 followers
March 9, 2019
Very bad book. Got sick of it after about 50 pages, kept going till 100 pages (my rule), then thought, well I might as well get credit for finishing it, so slogged it out.
I had read another book by this author (The Man from Beijing), which was also terrible, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. The other book wasn't from this series, which is famous with its detective Kurt Wallander, inspiring a TV series etc. So, I thought, I will give the author another chance with the first Wallander mystery. After all, maybe the other book lost a little in translation (they are translated to English from Swedish), and they are popular books, so can't be all bad, and they are Scandinavian, so at least will be relatively exotic...
Big mistake.
I do like a good police procedural, and enjoy many series which are, on the surface, similar to this one, such as Ian Rankin's Rebus books, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, and also another Scandinavian police procedural - Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series.
The difference between those books and these? Those other authors can write (at least a little bit).
Wallander is an almost comical cliche, a detective with a drinking problem and a disastrous personal life who is currently in a mid-life crisis. He doesn't, however, have any redeeming qualities. He is not smart, he is not likeable, he is not charismatic, he is completely pathetic. The other qualities of a good police procedural - a convincing cast of characters, some likeable and others not; some tension and conflict between the police and their superiors/politicians etc; some action; these are all, sadly, completely lacking.
Another major problem is the complete lack of plotting, or any suspense, or any mystery. Yes, people are killed and the police try and find out who did it. But by the time it is eventually revealed who did it, a completely random plot-line with no link to the rest of the story, it is hard to care.
There are many people who presumably like these books, as they have sold lots of copies despite the flat characters, the wooden dialogue and unconvincing relationships. Frankly, I was surprised - why translate these books into English at all? On reflection though, I shouldn't have been, as there are lots of English language authors who are just as bad and just as popular.
Anyway, I feel sad for wasting my time on not one but two books by this author, and angry with myself for not just stopping at 50 pages for this one.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
November 1, 2020
After reading several of the more sensational Jo Nesbo thriller type mysteries, I decided to check this series out, hoping to also see the British TV series (though set in Sweden) starring Kenneth Branagh. Kurt Wallender features some of the usual detective cliches; he's older, dumped by his wife, eatung poorly and gaining weight, binge-drinking. To humanize him further he's estranged from his daughter Linda and his father is slipping into dementia. And his partner is dying of cancer.

So, a kinda dumpy sad sack guy, lost, mid-forties, and not Sherlock (nor even Columbo) as a detective. He doesn't have a clue to what is going on, and just works hard to see something he missed. But the book is well-written and Wallender is warm and approachable and sort of bleakly sad to match the midwinter Swedish landscape. He's not tall and lean and sexy and rough like Harry Hole (who is also a drunk and has complicated relationships with women and self-care), but Wallender is more based in the real world, as is the story.

This tale is pretty much a straightforward police procedural that tacks back and forth between the crime-solving and his personal life. Well, I guess there is something sensational about the initial crime itself, the double murder of a remote, rural, older couple, which Wallender says is the worst thing he has ever seen. The last thing the woman says is "foreigner," which gets leaked to the press and sets off a wave of anti-immigrant violence (the book was published in 1990). But why kill an older couple?!

There aren't a lot of twists and turns in the plot. Oh, there are dead ends, of course, but nothing here is really surprising. Nothing wild like Nesbo's Snowman or Lizbeth Salander. But I liked this because it felt more real and something I could identify with and touches on real world refugee complications in contrast to all the serial killer horror/fantasies of Nesbo (which I have acknowledged in my reviews as well done, almost every time. And not that I don't like Harry! I do!).
Profile Image for TL .
1,826 reviews35 followers
May 12, 2019
Wow, didn't realize it's been this long since I last re-read the series... where did the time go?

Still love these characters, not a perfect book but I had/have so much fun with these and they got me through a stressful work week too.

I don't remember how I came across these, most likely it was through here. Maybe through someone I talked to here *shrugs* My first introduction to Swedish crime fiction :)

Narrator was pretty good. His female voices were so-so but he brought the story to life very well.


2014 re-read:

It was good re-visiting these people again :) (Will have to watch the BBC SERIES again when I'm off, maybe marathon it).

Tried to read slowly to savor it but got caught up in the story again and charged through so to speak :).

If your a fan of fast paced crime novels, this may not be for you. There's periods in the narrative where not much happens and its just Kurt reflecting on his personal life and him/his colleagues going over clues.
This is a methodical sort of novel, takes its time letting the story unfold.

Kurt isn't perfect, he makes mistakes but he presses on.

The end to both mysteries in the book was well done, both solved by chance, Kurt's instincts (even though I wanted to shake him for climbing up that scaffolding at one point... I admire his passion for solving the crimes), and excellent work on the part of his team.

Still hurt for Rydberg, poor guy... Would love Mr. Mankell to write a novel or two about him during his career and when he met Wallander.

Another wonderful visit, would definitely read again :) *waves* Highly recommended, happy reading!

Original review (2012):
Excellent crime novel, very atomspheric and suspenseful... Kurt Wallander is a flawed but good man, he never gives up in his quest for the truth.

Its a quiet sort of novel... it pulls you in bit by bit, I was glad to learn what happened in the crimes but I was sad to say goodbye to the characters.
Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books496 followers
October 18, 2012
This is my first Mankell. I thoroughly enjoyed the tension and the investigation details and frustration. The unfamiliar (to me) setting and political environment added to the interest.

Then I think it drifted away at the end. The resolution did not rise to the level of what came before. However, it was certainly good enough to add the next Wallander adventure to my list.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Caston.
Author 9 books136 followers
July 14, 2022
This is the first Wallander book. I'd seen the TV adaptation of the character and books before getting to this one.

The narration was pretty good. An interesting story. Wallander vacillates between being simply grumpy to truly broken and unsympathetic.

The story gave me a bit of little details of life in Sweden. Not much. I wish it had more about Swedish culture, but no biggie, especially since I have to be mindful it was translated to English.

Wallander is clearly an angsty, broken character. He's dealt with a lot. Dude's a complete mess. I can understand why he drinks and stays up and has such a grim outlook. I could have done without the . But I like that toward the end there is a glimmer of hope for his future, as he starts to adjust to his new realities, including

They are quite dark emotionally, so I will probably end up doling these out to myself in small doses.
Profile Image for Dana-Adriana B..
641 reviews267 followers
January 22, 2020
Nice Swedish thriller. Kurt Wallander has to solve a brutal murder on an isolated farm. 6 months after he still has no lead, but then.... He is determined not to let go of the case, but is not easy.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,691 followers
September 9, 2010
I remember a discussion I had years ago with a friend of mine about Jonathon Demme's film version of The Silence of the Lambs. We were both annoyed by the pacing of the film and joked that it was really the story of an FBI agent driving her car, with some dialogue thrown in to liven things up.

I felt a bit that way reading Faceless Killers, the first Wallander book by Henning Mankell. I don't know if it was only this first Wallander mystery (it's the first I've read too) or if it is a common theme in Mankell's work, but the writing is obsessed with time. Time of day, seasons, days of the week, months, we are constantly being reminded when we are in the story. But that's not such a bad thing.

What Mankell achieves with his use of time, whether he meant to or not, is an expression of what I imagine is the reality of police work: waiting, waiting and more waiting.

We are so used to the slick, Hollywood version of crime stories that we expect everything to come together quickly, cleanly, logically. We expect the perpetrators to make big mistakes, the crime scene investigators to find some smoking DNA, the Detectives to put all the pieces together as if by magic. That's not how it really happens, though, and investigations take time. It makes for some boring bits in the book, but boring in a way that reflects the police lifestyle.

As for the main character, Wallander spends more time in Faceless Killers worrying about his ailing father, obsessing over his failed marriage, and feeling generally sorry for himself than he does thinking about the case. Yet he still manages to work on the case with the tenacity of a bedbug, and six months after the killings, with nothing but perseverance, he gets the break in the case he needs and finds the killers.

Faceless Killers isn't a classic "whodunnit" style mystery; there's no way for a reader to figure out who the killers are. There are no clues we can follow, no hints, but there are no real red herrings either because, in the end, the murders and police work are not what the book is about. It is about the life of Kurt Wallander and everything else, including the mystery, is just a part of his life.

I like Wallander (probably because I watched the BBC version on Masterpiece Mystery and loved Kenneth Branagh as Wallander), so I'll probably read another couple of stories when I am bored. But if you don't like dreary, self-pitying, middle-aged, divorced men, the Wallander books probably aren't for you.
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