Books Firewall


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by Henning Mankell

First published: 1998

Original language: Swedish

Translated by: Ebba Segerberg

Firewall is the first Henning Mankell thriller I’ve read, although I discover it was his last book to star Kurt Wallander as the detective hero - in its last few pages the way is set for Wallander’s daughter Linda to take over the lead in subsequent stories of the series.

As it happens, I don’t mind starting at the end of a detective series like this and then, if sufficiently struck, tracking back through the earlier works, often in descending date order, like a blog.

And in the case of Mankell and Wallander, I have certainly been struck enough to want to read more their earlier exploits, in very near, possibly even immediate, future.

The things that have appealed to me most in this first taste have been the usual aspects of police-procedural thrillers that tend to hook me: the character of the main cop, the writing style, the book’s atmosphere, and what it tells me of a place, culture, and/or people which are either new to me, or offer insights on somewhere I already know.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that when it says on the cover of a crime writer I haven’t read (as it does here) something like “The most impressive…blah blah blah…since Ian Rankin”, then that’s often enough to get me to include it in my 3 for 2 or whatever.

Plots - with some notable exceptions - are not such an important factor in whether or not I get off on a ‘new’ author, unless so stunningly absurd as to swamp anything else of possible interest that may lie squashed beneath the risable twists and turns and twists and twists and other serpentine antics of the desperate plotter in the grips of terminal plotting psychosis. One thinks of plots like those of Jeffrey Deaver at his most manic, yet lacking his slick ability to make such exponential twisting reasonably readable, albeit ultimately tiresome, like a fairly good joke repeated ad infinitum in some barroom of hell (by a paraplegic drunk?).

As for the plot of Firewall, it certainly verges on the absurd, involving a computer virus conspiracy to destroy capitalist society via its well-known technological vulnerabilities, i.e. another ‘backdoor worm’ variation on Homer’s Trojan Horse story, that has provided the computer virus industry and its chroniclers with much of its language and metaphor. Yet it is such seemingly apocalyptic cyber-terrorist codswallop that lies behind much of the mayhem and murder inflicted on the inhabitants of Ystad, the Baltic port in the south of Sweden’s Skåne province linked to Poland by ferry, and which not surprisingly causes the very down-to-earth and hard-working police team lead by Wallander so much bafflement when lumbered to make sense of its grandiose objectives, that provides the novel with one of its most original and stimulating attributes.


Rated 4 Stars - good, no regrets by Iain Stewart on January 9, 2005

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