trs Laurie Thompson, Harvill Secker £17.99

The Troubled Man, By Henning Mankell

Inspector Morose – the depressive detective Kurt Wallander – mounts what the author says will be his final investigation

More accurately, there are two troubled men at the heart of the latest Henning Mankell novel, not one. The first is Haken von Enke, an upper-class Swede who rose quickly through the ranks to become a senior naval commander during the Cold War, until his career stalled following an incident in the early 1980s: von Enke cornered a foreign submarine in Swedish waters but, rather than force the vessel up to establish its presumed Russian identity, he allowed the submarine to escape.

In 2008, Detective Kurt Wallander's daughter Linda (with whom he has a loving but prickly relationship, exacerbated by her decision to follow him into the police force) announces that she and von Enke's financier son, Hans, are going to have a child together. Linda coaxes Wallander to join them at a party to celebrate Haken's 75th birthday, during which the retired commander corners the detective with a long account of the Cold War stand-off, and his subsequent suspicions about possible high-level espionage and a political cover-up. After 25 years, von Enke feels he is close to the truth, and seems distinctly uneasy about it.

The second troubled man is Wallander himself, who is in the region of 60, works and drinks too hard, exercises too little, is overweight, over-stressed and lies awake at night thinking of death. He's diabetic and takes a daily cocktail of seven pills, which he wisely keeps quiet from Linda – who nevertheless has an astute grasp of her father's emotional health: "loneliness will eat you up from the inside". Relations with Linda's mother remain vituperative, and a chance visit from Baiba Liepa, who spurned Wallander's offer of marriage during their passionate affair a decade earlier and is now dying of cancer, adds grief to his morbidity. Perhaps even more alarming, moments of complete mental blankness are overwhelming Wallander with increasing frequency, and terrify him so much that he hasn't the nerve to consult a doctor.

On the face of it, Mankell's plot is relatively simple. One day, Haken goes missing during his morning constitutional, leaving behind his phone, passport, money and any rationale as to his disappearance. No body, no trace. Wallander enquires, unearthing a steady stream of clues about von Enke and his wife Louise, a modest woman with East German heritage. When Louise's body is found in woodland a month later, along with classified microfilm, Wallander's drive to make sense of it all pushes The Troubled Man relentlessly on towards murky revelations of high-level treachery.

The anchor of Wallander's person-ality ensures that The Troubled Man operates as a good, gritty procedural rather than a spy thriller, but the historical context adds depth and texture to the investigation. In fact, history intrudes into much of Mankell's work. Depths plumbed an earlier wartime nautical theme but fell flat through wooden characterisation; Daniel was a 19th-century African sortie with uneven voices and a flagging pace; and The Return of the Dancing Master uncovered a Europe-wide resurgent neo-Nazism festering in rural Swedish hamlets. None of these three featured our morose detective, but Mankell's adeptness at weaving big ideas into seemingly local crimes has often given his Wallander procedurals an expansive atmosphere. Firewall very effectively conjured the plausible threat of global cyber-terrorism initiated in sleepy Ystad, Wallander's home town, while The White Lioness put KGB assassins into Sweden's misty coastal landscape, and a plot to murder Nelson Mandela and foment civil war in South Africa.

Mankell is undoubtedly a skilled writer with plenty of breadth, but it's clear that his subtleties of character, plot and pace achieve greatest expression in the Wallander series. The detective's phlegmatic personality is the binding agent. He has a mournful cast of mind (and understated fondness for opera) that isn't far removed from the very English dourness of Inspector Morse, and he seems to triumph through graft and intuition rather than forensic subtlety.

It's the lack of glamour that really anchors Wallander's insomniac, fretting demeanour; a graininess that is neatly polarised by the two screen interpretations that have boosted the Wallander brand in recent years. Kenneth Brannagh's BBC episodes were visually beautiful and engaging but a touch overplayed. The Swedish TV series starring Krister Henriksson retains Mankell's downbeat, rainy atmosphere and carries a correspondingly heavy emotional heft.

When, in this valedictory eleventh outing, Wallander hears of the death of his former lover, "he lay down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling where a patch of damp had appeared ... and could feel a sense of mounting desperation". It's this quiet inner turmoil that drives the procedurals, and that closes, with an absence of histrionics, the hugely absorbing Wallander casefile.

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines