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The Man Who Smiled: Kurt Wallander [Format Kindle]

Henning Mankell , Laurie Thompson
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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A silent, stealthy beast of prey. Even though I have lived all my life in SkŒne, where fog is forever closing in and shutting out the world, I’ll never get used to it.

9 p.m., October 11, 1993.

Fog came rolling in from the sea. He was driving home to Ystad and had just passed Br?sarp Hills when he found himself in the thick of the white mass.

Fear overcame him right away.

I’m frightened of fog, he thought. I should be scared of the man I have just been to see at Farnholm Castle instead. The friendly man whose menacing staff always lurk in the background, their faces in the shadows. I should be thinking about him and what I now know is hidden behind that friendly smile. His impeccable standing in the community, above the very least suspicion. He is the one I should be frightened of, not the fog drifting in from Han? Bay. Not now that I have discovered that he would not hesitate to kill anyone who gets in his way.

He turned on the wipers to try to clear the windshield. He did not like driving in the dark. He particularly disliked it when rabbits scurried this way and that in the headlights.

Once, more than thirty years ago, he had run over a hare. It was on the Tomelilla road, one evening in early spring. He could still remember stamping his foot down on the brake pedal, but then a dull thud against the bodywork. He had stopped and got out. The hare was lying on the road, its back legs kicking. The upper part of its body was paralyzed, but its eyes stared at him. He had had to force himself to find a heavy stone from the verge, and had shut his eyes as he threw it down onto the hare’s head. He had hurried back to the car without looking again at the animal.

He had never forgotten those eyes and those wildly kicking legs. The memory kept coming back, again and again, usually at the most unexpected times.

He tried now to put the unpleasantness behind him. A hare that died all of thirty years ago can haunt a man, but it can’t harm him, he thought. I have more than enough worries about people still in the land of the living.

He noticed that he was checking his rearview mirror more often than usual.

I’m frightened, he thought again, and I have only just realized that I am running away. I am running from what I know is hidden behind the walls of Farnholm Castle. And they know that I know. But how much? Enough for them to be afraid that I’ll break the oath of silence I once took as a newly qualified lawyer? A long time ago that was, when an oath was just that: a sacred commitment to professional secrecy. Are they nervous about their old lawyer’s conscience?
Nothing in the rearview mirror. He was alone in the fog, but in under an hour he would be back in Ystad.

The thought cheered him, if only for a moment. So they weren’t following him after all. He had made up his mind what he was going to do tomorrow. He would talk to his son, who was also his colleague and a partner in the legal practice. There was always a solution, that was something life had taught him. There had to be one this time too.

He groped on the unlit dashboard for the radio. The car filled with a man’s voice talking about the latest research in genetics. Words passed through his brain without his taking them in. He checked his watch: nearly 9:30. Still no one behind him, but the fog seemed to be getting even thicker. Nevertheless, he pressed down on the accelerator a little harder. The further he was from Farnholm Castle, the calmer he felt. Perhaps, after all, he had nothing to fear.

He forced himself to think clearly.

It had begun with a perfectly ordinary telephone call, a message on his desk asking him to contact a man about a contract that urgently needed verifying. He did not recognize the name, but had taken the initiative and made the call: a small law practice in an insignificant Swedish town could not afford to reject a potential client. He could recall even now the voice on the phone: polite, with a northern accent, but at the same time giving the impression of a man who measured out his life in terms of what each minute cost. He had explained the task, a complicated transaction involving a shipping line registered in Corsica and a number of cement cargoes to Saudi Arabia, where one of his companies was acting as an agent for Skanska. There had been some vague, passing reference to an enormous mosque that was to be built in Khamis Mushayt. Or maybe it was a university building in Jeddah.

They had met a few days later at the Continental Hotel in Ystad. He had arrived there early, and the restaurant was not yet open for lunch; he had sat at a table in the corner and watched the man arrive. The only other person there was a Yugoslav waiter staring gloomily out of the window. It was the middle of January, a gale was blowing in from the Baltic, and it would soon be snowing. But the man approaching him was suntanned. He wore a dark blue suit and was definitely no more than fifty. Somehow, he did not belong either in Ystad or in the January weather. He was a stranger, with a smile that did not belong to that suntanned face.

That was the first time he had set eyes on the man from Farnholm Castle. A man without baggage, in a discrete world of his own, in a blue, tailor-made suit, everything centering on a smile, and an alarming pair of shadowy satellites buzzing attentively but in the background.

Oh yes, the shadows had been there even then. He could not recall either of them being introduced. They sat at a table on the other side of the room, and rose without a word when their master’s meeting was over.

Golden days, he thought, bitterly, and I was stupid enough to believe in it. A lawyer’s vision of the world should not be influenced by the illusion of a paradise to come, not here on earth at least. Within six months the suntanned man had come to be responsible for half of the practice’s turnover, and in a year the firm’s income had doubled. Bills were paid promptly, it was never necessary to send a reminder. They had been able to afford to redecorate their offices. The man at Farnholm Castle seemed to be managing his business in every corner of the world, and from places that seemed to be chosen more or less at random. Faxes and telephone calls, even the occasional radio transmission, came from the strangest-sounding towns, some he could only with difficulty find on the globe next to the leather sofa in the reception area. But everything had been aboveboard, albeit complex.

The new age has dawned, he remembered thinking. So this is what it’s like. As a lawyer, I have to be grateful that the man at Farnholm picked my name from the telephone book.

His train of recollections was cut short. For a moment he thought he was imagining it, but then he clearly made out the headlights in the rearview mirror.

They had crept up on him.

Fear struck him immediately. They had followed him after all. They were afraid he would betray his oath of silence.

His first reaction was to accelerate away through the fog. Sweat broke out on his forehead. The headlights were on his tail. Shadows that kill, he thought. I’ll never get away, just as none of the others did.

The car passed him. He caught a glimpse of the driver’s face, an old man. Then the red taillights vanished into the fog.

He took out a handkerchief and wiped his face and neck.

I’ll soon be home, he thought. Nothing is going to happen. Mrs Dun?r has recorded in my diary that I was to be at Farnholm today. Nobody, not even he, would send his henchmen to kill off his own elderly lawyer on the way home from a meeting. It would be far too risky.

It was nearly two years before he first realized that something untoward was going on. It was an insignificant assignment, checking contracts that involved the Swedish Trade Council as guarantors for a considerable sum of money. Spare parts for turbines in Poland, combine harvesters for Czechoslovakia. It was a minor detail, some figures that didn’t add up. He thought it was probably a misprint, maybe somewhere two digits had been muddled. He had gone through it all again and realized that it was no accident, it was all intentional. Nothing was missing, everything was correct, but the upshot was horrifying. His first instinct had been not to believe it. He had leaned back in his chair–it was late in the evening, he recalled–taking in that there was no doubt that he had uncovered a crime. It was dawn before he had set out to walk the streets of Ystad, and by the time he reached Stortorget he had reluctantly accepted that there was no alternative explanation: the man at Farnholm Castle was guilty of a gross breach of trust regarding the Trade Council, of tax evasion, and of a whole string of forgeries.

After that he had constantly been on the lookout for the black holes in every document emanating from Farnholm. And he found them–not every time, but more often than not. The extent of the criminality had slowly dawned on him. He tried not to acknowledge the evidence he could not avoid registering, but in the end he had to face up to the facts. But on the other hand he had done nothing about it. He had not even told his son. Was this because, deep down, he preferred to believe it wasn’t true? Nobody else, apparently not even the tax authorities, had noticed anything. Perhaps he had uncovered a secret that was purely hypothetical? Or was it that it was all too late anyway, now that the man from Farnholm Castle was the principal source of income for the firm?

The fog was more or less impenetrable now. He hoped it might lift as he got nearer to Ystad.

He couldn’t go on like this, that was certain. Not now that he knew that the man had blood on his hands.

He would talk to his son. The rule of law still applied in Sweden, for heaven’s sake, even though it seemed to be undermined and diluted day by day. His own complaisance had been a part of that process. His having turned a blind eye for so long was no reason for remaining silent now.

He would never bring himself to commit suicide.

Suddenly he saw something in the headlights. He slammed on the brakes. At first he thought it was a hare. Then he realized there was something in the road.

He turned on his brights.

It was a chair, in the middle of the road. A simple kitchen chair. Sitting on it was a human-sized effigy. Its face was white.

Or could it be a real person made up like a tailor’s dummy?

He felt his heart starting to pound. Fog swirled in the light of his headlamps. There was no way he could shut out the chair and the effigy. Nor could he ignore his mounting fear. He checked his rearview mirror. Nothing. He drove slowly forward until the chair and the effigy were no more than ten meters from the car. Then he stopped again.

The dummy looked impressively like a human being. Not just some kind of hastily put-together scarecrow. It’s for me, he thought. He switched off the radio, his hand trembling, and pricked up his ears. Fog, and silence. He didn’t know what to do next.

What made him hesitate was not the chair out there in the fog, nor the ghostly effigy. There was something else, something in the background, something he couldn’t make out. Something that probably existed only inside himself.

I’m very frightened, he said to himself, and fear is undermining my ability to think straight.

Finally, he undid his seat belt and opened the door. He was surprised by how cool it felt outside. He got out, his eyes fixed on the chair and the dummy lit up by the car’s headlights. His last thought was that it reminded him of a stage set with an actor about to make his entrance.

He heard a noise behind him, but he didn’t turn. The blow caught him on the back of his head.

He was dead before his body hit the damp asphalt.

It was 9:53 p.m. The fog was now very dense.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. First published in Sweden in 1994, Mankell's terrific fourth Kurt Wallender mystery opens with the kind of startling image typical of this internationally bestselling series (Firewall, etc.): a lawyer, driving home through the fog, stops after he sees "a human-sized effigy" propped on a chair in the middle of a deserted highway. Gustaf Torstensson gets out of the car to investigate, is hit from behind and was "dead before his body hit the damp asphalt." The police accept the assailant's claim that it was an accident, but when Torstensson's son, Sten, is shot dead just two weeks later, the brooding Wallender, who's on sick leave and vowing to retire from the Ystad police force, decides to pursue the killer and resume his career. The chief suspect—a powerful, globe-trotting Swedish businessman who's the smiling man of the title—leads Wallender on an exquisitely plotted search for motive and evidence. Dark and moody, this is crime fiction of the highest order. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1236 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 449 pages
  • Editeur : Vintage Digital (4 septembre 2008)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0099571722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099571728
  • ASIN: B0031RS45M
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°40.221 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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En savoir plus sur l'auteur

Né en Suède en 1948, Henning Mankell est considéré comme l'un des maîtres incontestés du roman policier suédois grâce à la série des Wallander, traduite en 35 langues et pour laquelle l'Académie suédoise lui a décerné le Grand Prix de littérature policière. Lauréat de nombreux prix littéraires dont le prix Mystère de la Critique, le prix Calibre 38, et le Trophée 813, il est l'auteur de romans sur l'Afrique ou des questions de société, de pièces de théâtre et d'ouvrages pour la jeunesse. Il partage aujourd'hui sa vie entre la Suède et le Mozambique.

Crédit photo : Lina Ikse

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
3.0 étoiles sur 5 At times implausible 28 août 2014
Format:Format Kindle
This slow 1994 thriller sees the return to work of chief inspector Kurt Wallanger (KW), 49, after a lengthy medical leave. He intended to sign his resignation into effect, but remorse about the recent murder of a man he used to know, makes him change his mind. Why remorse? Because he refused to help the man when he asked for it. Days later the man was murdered.
Throughout the thriller KW is tired, depressed and irritable. He lives on coffee and fast food and sleeps badly. One cause of his Nordic gloom are his feelings of futility regarding his job: fewer crimes are solved in Sweden than almost anywhere else in Europe. Ever fewer uniformed police on the streets and more administrative staff at the station are the result of endless reforms whose main outcome is to achieve budget cuts. The unsolved 1986 murder of prime minister Olof Palme also weighs heavily on the force and KW’s midlife crisis: how to carry on? Finally, there is the belief in Sweden, also in law enforcement, that business tycoons and their families to whom the country owes its wealth, are immune to committing crimes, and therefore sacrosanct, above the law.
Because one such a mover and shaker, Alfred Harderberg, is the only person who could possibly have ordered the first murder. After slow and painstaking investigations KW and his team uncover more, apparently unrelated killings, and KW becomes a target himself. He also faces trouble from within the force in his efforts to confront the iconic tycoon.
This thriller takes place in late 1993, not long before the internet and GSM revolution erupted. Google and countless other apps and devices key to police work today had not been invented or introduced yet.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Du grand Mankell 31 mars 2013
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Excellent polar, du suspense, avec en plus une reflexion sur la vision de la vie à 50 ans et un aperçu de la Suède moderne.
Le lecteur peut s'assimiler à Kurt Wallander et à ses doutes existentiels.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  184 commentaires
229 internautes sur 231 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 excellent, but if you are new to Wallander Mysteries, read them in sequence... 14 septembre 2007
Par Mariusz Ozminkowski - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Other reviewers said all that had to be said. I have one suggestion to readers that are new to Kurt Wallander Mystery Novels. Read them in sequence. Unfortunately, they were translated to English out of order. Here is the correct order: 1. Faceless Killers (1991 2. The Dogs of Riga (1992) 3. The White Lioness 1993 4. The Man Who Smiled 1994 5. Sidetracked 1995 6. The Fifth Woman 1996 7. One Step Behind (1997 8. Firewall (1998 9. Before the Frost (2002) and The Troubled Man (2009), the last case of Wallander. Also, consider another 'non-Wallander' mystery: The Return of the Dancing Master (2000) and The Man From Beijing (2010). I hope I didn't miss anything...
37 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 "O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! 23 janvier 2007
Par Lonya - Publié sur Amazon.com
My tables,--meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain:
At least I 'm sure it may be so in Denmark." Hamlet.

And I'm sure, after reading Henning Mankell's "The Man Who Smiled", that it may be so in Sweden as well.

"The Man Who Smiled" is the fourth book in the popular Inspector Kurt Wallander mystery series. An aging attorney has been found dead on a desolate strip of road. The local police think it is an accident brought about by the dense fog that surrounded the area that night. The man's son, also an attorney, seeks out is friend Kurt Wallander to ask for help. He thinks his father has been murdered. Wallander isn't really interested. He'd killed a man in the line of duty and has been on leave ever since. He has no taste for police work, is loaded up with antidepressants and drinks to excess. But when his friend is found murdered, the same guilt that drove Wallander away from police work compels him to return to help solve the murder of the friend and what may be the murder of the friend's father.

As Wallander returns to work he finds himself thinking that one of Sweden's richest men may have some part in the murders. He is very rich and very powerful. So powerful that he can afford to keep a smile affixed to his permanently suntanned face. It is a smile of condescension and smugness. It is a smile that says "I am untouchable." Wallander battles to put his life back together while he struggles to put together the pieces of a very complex crime puzzle.

Mankell's Kurt Wallander series is often compared to the Martin Beck detective mysteries authored by the husband and wife team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. Wallander, like Beck, is a police detective in Sweden. Unlike Beck, whose beat was Stockholm, Wallander works in the small southern-Swedish city of Ystad. Wallander's work performance is 99 per cent driven by perspiration and only 1 per cent driven by inspiration. He is not Sherlock Holmes but he is smart and he is persistent. As noted, "The Man Who Smiled" is the fourth in the Wallander Series. They have all been enjoyable to read even if the series has its ups and downs. As with any series the reader is either drawn to the main character or bored by the main character. Although Wallander is stoic and a bit plodding I somehow find him to be a compelling character. Mankell has also done a good job in fleshing out the characters of Wallander's police unit.

Ultimately, there is nothing new or unique about the structure of the Wallander books. However, the setting (southern Sweden) and the cast of characters created by Mankell makes these books easy to pick up and a bit harder to put down. If you like police procedurals "The Man Who Smiled" is well worth reading. L. Fleisig
34 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Some Problems 28 janvier 2008
Par Driver9 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Too late did I learn that the translator of this book is not the same as the translator of "One Step Behind." But as I was reading, I noticed a distinct difference in tone between then two novels. There were several instances in which the translation came up with idiomatic usage, such as the expression "fishy" that seemed out of place and jarring. Elsewhere, the novel suffered from an overall flatness that was strikingly different from other Mankell novels.

But there were other problems, as noted by some of the other reviewers. The lead up to the conclusion was too forced and strained credulity. The fact that Wallander would remain inside the mansion without calling for backup at any point did not make sense, likewise his partner's delay in calling for help herself. Also, the idea of a supremely wealthy man would utilize a land mine to murder a potentially troublesome witness seemed quite ludicrous to me. The bad guy, Harderberg, was also a big disppointment: extremely two dimensional and flat. The attempt to make him seem aloof by affixing a permanent smile to his face only added to the sense that he was more pastiche that person. It was as though Mankell had taken the attributes of several other characters and decided to utilize the most superficial of each. His language was stilted and pure cliche. This could also have been a result of the not so good translation.

For all of this, I read the novel to the end. Mankell is great at creating a dark and drizzly world where his characters try and figure out who they are, which at the same time trying to solve a crime. Wallander is a great character, flawed and human and consistent from one novel the the next.
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Deep in Swedish Noir, once again 10 janvier 2007
Par Philip C. Campbell - Publié sur Amazon.com
As I have recently learned, there is a title for this type of book, "Swedish Noir". There are those who do not like this type of brooding, intense, emotionally wrenching story, but there are a lot of folks who do, and not just among Swedes. I have been following many of Mankell's book as well as other authors in the Scandianvian mystry genre, and have tried to read them in sequence. This one escaped me so it was taking place early in the author's series, but basically that does not matter, it is a terrific, detailed, intense story. Kurt Wallender is real and flawed and yet manages to be bigger than life despite it all. I have enjoyed all of Mankell's books that I have read, and this one ranks among the best of that bunch. A fine read.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Just Superb for 400 Pages, But Then It Has an Improbable Ending 28 janvier 2007
Par J.E.Robinson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Just as a point of trivia but in Europe and in Sweden, detective Kurt Wallander's home, the spelling is sometimes Wallender or Wallander. One encounters both spellings on amazon.

I thank fellow reviewer Leonard Fleisig for bringing this author to my attention. The writing is simply superb, and I am very interested in reading more books by the same author.

As done by Len, I gave the book 4 stars. I thought that "The Man Who Smiled" was a good book until near the end. Up to that point I thought that Mankell was doing a great job with the novel. The novel reminded me a bit of the Peter Robinson Inspector Banks series, but here the policeman is more involved; actually, he becomes too involved and that is what slightly spoils the book.

The book opens with a map of southern Sweden, and a second map of the town of Ystad. The latter is the primary setting, although the crimes are spread around the southern part of Sweden in this novel. The police station is located in Ystad, near the most southerly part of Sweden, south and east of Malmo, and on the Baltic. Malmo itself is just 10 km across water from Copenhagen. Part of the tale takes place in Denmark.

I will not give away the plot and the essential plot elements are outlined by the publisher: a police inspector on a stress leave is drawn back to work by the murder of a friend. The policeman, Kurt Wallender, takes a personal interest in the death of two lawyers, one who he knew professionally, and who had approached him about a case a week before his death.

This is a great and a fast read that I was able to read with a great deal of enjoyment in less than a day. I read it while staying at a hotel in southern Sweden, not too far from the crime scene, and that the details and descriptions of the places, people, and other details are made to seeme authentic.

This is a book that I highly recommend, but because of the ending it merits 4 stars. The writing is smooth and flawless.
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