Day 142: The Man from Beijing

Cover for The Man from BeijingBefore I read The Man from Beijing, I heard it was really good, but I personally think Henning Mankell is better when he restrains the scope of his novels and refrains from long political discussions. This novel is not one of Mankell’s Kurt Wallander mysteries, but a stand-alone.

Almost everyone in a small village in remote Sweden is brutally murdered. Judge Birgitta Roslin figures out that one elderly couple was her mother’s foster parents, so she decides to go to the village and investigate.

The police are quickly convinced that the murderer is a local petty criminal, but Roslin finds diaries written by an immigrant ancestor of one of the elderly victims that she thinks may provide clues to the crime. Roslin’s story is periodically interrupted by a flashback describing the events following a man’s kidnapping in China in 1863 after he is brought to America to work on the railroad.

In the meantime, Ya Ru, a powerful Chinese businessman, is plotting a further acquisition of power and waiting to hear about the revenge he planned against the family of a man who harmed his ancestor. The novel travels to China, London, and Africa. It involves political plotting and maneuvering, corruption, and racism.

I thought the motive for the original murders was ridiculous. I also found many of the characters to be one-dimensional.

This novel is the second stand-alone I have read by Mankell, but unusually for me (because I often tire of series mysteries), I have preferred the Wallander novels. Both stand-alone novels are set partially in Africa, where Mankell lives part of the year. This novel is an improvement on the other one, which I thought was poorly written and extremely depressing, but it still has major flaws.

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