This is a bit of a cheat because I didn’t actually buy this book, in fact technically I nicked it. When I started watching Wallander in the Autumn of 2009 and became instantly obsessed with all things Swedish, starting with Ola Rapace (google him and thank me later), I spoke on Twitter about wanting to read the books and the lovely @LegalBizzle kindly lent me a big bag of them, which I then failed miserably to return. But bless him, he’s so lovely (and furry) he donated them to the TSL. So I’ve been making my way through them and dumping them in the Suitcase once I’ve read them.
Sidetracked is the fifth in the Wallander series, which I have read hopelessly out of order. I read The Dogs of Riga and The White Lioness first, because they hadn’t been made into English TV adaptations, and the I read One Step Behind because I enjoyed the Swedish adaptation so much.
Sidetracked is an incredibly bleak story, including trafficking, rape, scalping, suicide by burning yourself alive, axes through the head, roasting people, incest and police cuts. As with the other Wallander books, Mankell uses the plot to speak about the disintegration of Swedish society and the break-down of the hippy dreams of the 1950s. Political corruption, greed, misogyny and racism haunt the characters who all end up dead in the sleepy seaside town of Ystad.
Wallander himself is probably the most well developed of the detectives I’ve met so far in the challenge, but having already read and watched him a lot over the last couple of years, he’s an old friend rather than a new fun acquaintance.
In Sidetracked, his relationship with her father becomes deeper as he deals with him illness. This touching example of how middle aged men cope is lightly but beautifully done. He also shows himself to be a complete coward when it comes to women; he can handle a treble murder investigation but not ringing his girlfriend. Wallander is one series I really wish I’d read in order as seeing characters now that aren’t in later books was weird.
Mostly, this book was gruesome. Amazingly written, though you do spend a long time thinking ‘just get on with it, man’. I’m not a massive fan or detective dramas where you know who’s done it before the end of the book, and in this one we know from the beginning. Dramatic irony, I’ve always thought, works better on stage than in print.
If you’re never read a Wallander, start with Faceless Killers. The Dogs of Riga and The White Lioness were a bit dull, but only because they were so heavily focused on Swedish politics in the early 90s which I know literally nothing about, and One Step Behind is incredible and still my favourite. Sidetracked is a very very very good book, but isn’t the best. And Ola Rapace’s face isn’t on the cover.