In the 1990s, I discovered (probably by recommendation from my Mum) Henning Mankell's "Wallander"-novels, and made sure to read each and every one of them, plus one or two other books by the same author. A while ago, my Mum took out one from the library that we both had not read yet (it was published in German in 2012):
"Mord im Herbst" (this would translate "Murder in Autumn" in English, but the Swedish original is "Händelse om hösten") is a short novel of only 120 pages, and was originally written for a specific purpose: Some clever people in the Netherlands declared a particular month to be "Thriller Month" and had the idea that every customer who buys a work of crime fiction or mystery during that month gets an additional book for free. They approached Mr. Mankell with the idea, and he wrote this book because he thought it a good way to win people for reading.
Many years later, the book became the basis for a BBC film in which Kenneth Branagh plays Kurt Wallander. I did not see this film, and so I did not know more about the book than what it says on the back cover. But just knowing it was part of the Wallander series was enough for me to want to read it, and I was not disappointed!
Kurt Wallander has reached a point where he just doesn't feel like he wants to go on like this for much longer - both in his personal life (long divorced, with his adult daughter sharing a flat with him) and in his career. He is a good detective, but feels more and more listless about his work, and finds it hard to cope with some of the changes he observes in modern society in general, and Sweden in particular.
When a colleague tells him about an elderly relative of his wife's who has moved into a home and wants to sell his small house in the country, Wallander thinks this could be just what he needs. He drives out to look at the house and seriously considers buying it, until he (literally) stumbles across something half-buried under the leaves in the back garden: the bones of a human hand.
Of course, all thoughts of buying the place disappear - what matters to Wallander now is to find out who the person buried in the garden was, and how (and when) he or she died.
More than once, inquiries seem to have reached a dead end, and Wallander is almost ready to give up - only to come across something else to shed light on the events of many years back.
In the end, Wallander solves the mystery. But does he also find answers to the questions he is asking himself about his own life?
I very much enjoyed this. There was no overload of gruesome detail, and no improbable pseudo-psychological explanations, but a good mixture of facts and feelings. I can not read Swedish, so I have never read any of Mankell's works in their original language, but the German translation looks good to me, as far as I can tell. There were only two or three moments in the book when I could tell this was translated more or less directly from the original, because a native German writer would never express a particular idea like this, but none of it took away from the suspense and pleasure of reading.
Something I appreciated particularly about this book is what comes after the end of the story: in an epilogue of more than 10 pages, Mankell tells the story of how it all began with him and Wallander, his most popular creation. I always like to know some background of a story, which is inseparable from some information about the author. This is particularly interesting, because the author wrote it himself, and not some journalist or literary reviewer who collected quotes and blurbs and documents about the author (which is of course inevitable if the person one writes about has long been dead).
If you have never read a "Wallander" book, I very much recommend them. If you have, I would like to know what you think of them.