“The Return of the Dancing Master” by Henning Mankell

This month’s pick for my book group, The Return of the Dancing Master, is an engaging procedural mystery by Swedish writer Henning Mankell, best known for his Kurt Wallender series, soon to be televised by the BBC.

The prologue takes place at the end of the second world war, then jumps 54 years to the home of Herbert Molin. There is a brutal murder, bad things happen, and the narration stays mostly with Stefan Lindman, a policeman who used to work with Molin. Lindman’s reeling from a recent diagnosis of cancer, and lets himself be drawn into the investigation.

At least once every year he found himself in situations where he experienced considerable fear. One one occasion he’d been attacked by a psychopath weighing over 300 pounds. He had been on the floor with the man astride him, and in rising desperation had fought to prevent his head from being torn off by the madman’s gigantic hands…Another time he’d been shot at while approaching a house to deal with domestic violence…But he had never been as frightened as he felt now, on the morning of October 25, 1999, as he lay in bed staring up at the ceiling.

Detailed and not predictable, the mystery unfolds at as measured a pace as the reader can manage–I raced through the book in a few days. It paints a disturbing picture of post-war Swedes hiding ugly secrets in the wake of the Holocaust.

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