Judge Birgitta Roslin makes her appearance in this novel, first published in 2008. She has a husband and several grown up children but is not altogether happy with her life. Because her blood pressure is too high she is given sick leave, an enforced holiday which allows her to travel alone and ponder why she had her husband are growing apart.
Her chosen destination takes her to her mother’s childhood home which very unfortunately turns out to be the scene of a truly gruesome massacre, the kind of murder scene Mankell is only too good at describing. Birgitta does a little digging of her own and, when she believes she has discovered some clues, has some fairly frosty contact with the police inspector in charge of the investigation.
Surprisingly the narrative leaps from present day Sweden to nineteenth century China and it is some time before the reader is allowed to see the connection between the two stories but when Birgitta comes back, determined to follow her instinct and follow the leads she has chanced upon, the complex puzzle gradually starts to unravel.
Mankell takes his time. There are long impassioned passages about the evils of our colonial past , the dilemmas facing contemporary China’s leaders and their country’s involvement in the future of Africa. He makes his views on all these past and present events very clear and yet, somehow, holds the reader’s attention and never lets suspense slip too far out of sight.
Birgitta is an attractive character, courageous and intelligent. Let’s hope Mankell will let her feature in a series.
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