Italian Shoes, By Henning Mankell

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The Independent Culture

Frederick Welin, the disgraced doctor at the heart of Mankell's latest novel (translated by Laurie Thompson), turns out to be yet more of a curmudgeon than his most cherished creation, the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander.

Living in self-imposed exile on a small island in the archipelago, Welin has little contact with the outside world.

His life starts to thaw when a woman appears crossing the ice, bent over a Zimmer frame. Harriet, the girlfriend Welin abandoned in his youth, is now dying of cancer.

This uneven novel is, when good, exceptional. Harriet's last supper - held in the fading light of a mid-summer evening - is Bergmanesque.