Book Review: An Event In Autumn

An event in autumn
An event in autumn

“The great Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose once said, liberally translated,“the only things worth writing about are love and murder.” Henning Mankell, An Event in Autumn

Have you ever tuned into a movie near the end of the story and wished you had seen the whole thing?

Did you wonder why the characters responded the way they did and how everything became so dysfunctional? You KNEW it was a good story, but you didn't feel entirely in sync with all of the events.

Well, I felt a similar way this with this week's read, An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell.  This short story is a recent release inserted between the final two detective novels featuring the fictional character, Kurt Wallender.

I wrote last week about the dangers of formulaic books and nothing is more formula driven than a mystery novel.  The plot lines are tightly crafted moving the leader along with anticipated detours, red herrings, and, ultimately, a solved case.

When well-written, a good mystery novel is quite satisfying.

However, a GREAT mystery novel is when the case in question is only a background for learning about the detective.  Think Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or Phillip Marlowe.  In this case, the flawed sleuth here is Wallander.

There were plenty of references to this being the sunset of Wallander's career and the foreshadowing of things to come:

“It struck Wallander that nothing could make him as depressed as the sight of old spectacles that nobody wanted anymore."

“No doubt you thought I was dead. I sometimes think I am myself.”

But the detective is no sap.  He's philosophical about his career so, as a reader, you enjoy his quick reflections:

“There was a sort of beauty that only comes with age. A whole life engraved into facial wrinkles."

“He had been working with some of them for over fifteen years. It occurred to him that these were people who made up the content of a large proportion of his life. He was now the one who had been working longer than anybody else in the Ystad CID. Once upon a time he’d been the newcomer.”

The actual mystery itself was snappy and efficient; the book is only 149 pages long.  However, I don't recommend jumping into the series at this point.  Instead, if you're looking for a new mystery series, I would begin with an earlier title and patiently work your way through the stories.

Take a page from Wallander himself:

“Many years ago Wallander had learned that one of the manifold virtues a police officer must possess is the ability to be patient with himself."