Henning Mankell – One Step Behind

Three young people have been missing since Midsummer’s Day. Postcards from them have been arriving from all over Europe, but one of their mothers thinks that something is wrong. She thinks they aren’t travelling at all, and that the police should make efforts to track them down. Kurt Wallander has a nagging feeling she might be right, but it is only when his long-time colleague and friend Svedberg is murdered that his fears take a more sinister shape. He discovers that Svedberg had been conducting a secret investigation into the disappearance of the youngsters for a month already without telling anyone else. Was he killed because he was getting too close to the truth?

As well as being a well-constructed police thriller, I also found this a very intimate book. At the start, Wallander is diagnosed with diabetes. He also spends most of the book consumed with self-doubt and near-panic that he can’t cope with the stress of the investigation. Everyone around him knows that he is more than capable, but he has trouble seeing it himself. Consequently, he works himself into the ground to try and prove his worth, not only to his colleagues, but also to himself. He never grants himself a moment’s peace. I recognised a lot of myself in Wallander’s character, and reading the book actually felt therapeutic. It may not resonate with everyone in the same way, but even without the personal echoes, it’s still an excellent crime novel and a well-observed character study.