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A compelling story of a child driven to violence through loss and loneliness

About the Author

Henning Mankell has become a worldwide phenomenon with his crime writing, gripping thrillers and atmospheric novels set in Africa. His prize-winning and critically acclaimed Inspector Wallander Mysteries are currently dominating bestseller lists all over the globe. His books have been translated into over forty languages and made into numerous international film and television adaptations- most recently the BAFTA-award-winning BBC television series Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh. Mankell devotes much of his free time to working with Aids charities in Africa, where he is also director of the Teatro Avenida in Maputo. In 2008, the University of St Andrews conferred Henning Mankell with an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of his major contribution to literature and to the practical exercise of conscience.


Set in the 1870s, this earnest and heartbreaking story opens with the unsolved murder of a mentally retarded Swedish girl, but this isn't a mystery in the mode of Mankell's international bestselling Kurt Wallander novels (Firewall, etc.). Hans Bengler, a Swedish entomologist, travels across southern Africa in search of undiscovered insects. In the desert, he finds an orphaned native boy, whom he adopts on impulse and calls Daniel. Bengler brings Daniel back to Sweden to exhibit him for money. A link eventually emerges between the girl's murder and Daniel's story, which dramatically illuminates the evils of colonialism (Bengler notes that he "had to make the important decisions for these black people") and the cultural chasm between Europeans and Africans. Mankell fully understands Daniel's radically different cultural perspective and indelibly captures the boy's longing to return to his homeland and the tragic consequences of his forced exile. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Although it opens with the discovery of a corpse, this newly translated stand-alone work by the author of the Kurt Wallander mysteries is a mournful historical novel, not a detective story. In the late 1870s, amateur Swedish entomologist Hans Bengler journeys to the Kalahari Desert to discover an insect he can name after himself. Instead, he encounters an African boy whose family has been massacred. Bengler impetuously adopts the child, whom he calls Daniel, and the two sail to Sweden, where the book shifts primarily to Daniel's perspective. As Bengler exhibits him to ogling whites in cramped lecture halls, Daniel desperately yearns for the desert, a longing sharpened by dreamtime visions of his dead parents. Mired in loneliness, he conceives a fateful plan to learn to walk on water so that he can traverse the seas and return to Africa. VERDICT Glum by even Scandinavian standards, Mankell's narrative radiates a haunting intensity despite measured pacing. The dearth of suspense likely will disappoint Wallander fans; this is strictly for readers unafraid of bleak literary fiction and those who enjoy Mankell's other fiction (e.g., The Man from Beijing).-Annabelle Mortensen, Skokie P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

An acutely observed and slow-burning psychological thriller, written with Mankell's typically detached prose, making the violently tragic end all the more powerful -- Doug Johnstone * Big Issue Scotland *
Mankell pulls no punches in this bleak but brilliant examination of misguided humanism -- Tina Jackson * Metro *
A powerfully involving and uncompromising novel about the loss of childhood and innocence -- Barry Forshaw * Daily Express *
Thought-provoking -- Jennifer Cunningham * Sunday Herald *
A sombre, gripping story about alienation and the clash of cultures * The Times *

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