Review: An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell

An Event in AutumnIn his afterword, following an explanation of where AN EVENT IN AUTUMN fits chronologically, Henning Mankell writes: “There are no more stories about Kurt Wallander.” Tragic for long-time readers; I can only imagine my reaction when Connelly permanently retires Bosch, or Child sends Reacher to an early grave; heck, I was distraught when Rebus retired, until Rankin brought him back to work cold cases.

But as a newcomer to Wallander – despite years of pestering from fans wondering how I could call myself a crime fiction aficionado having not read any Mankell – such a declaration invigorates me to read the entire series. While I’m a huge fan of serial fiction, far too many overstay their welcome: there’s something to be said for a finite narrative. Knowing Wallander’s journey ends is a huge incentive to jump in. And after reading this novella, originally published in the Netherlands many years ago, that’s guaranteed.

Soon after Wallander’s offer on a new house is accepted, he stumbles – quite literally – over the skeletal remains of a human hand in the property’s garden. This begs the obvious questions: who does the hand belong to? Where is the rest of the body? And how did it get there? For answers, Wallander and his team are forced to dig into the past, uncovering long-buried secrets of the house’s previous occupants, culminating in a confrontation that leaves Wallander’s life in the balance.

There’s a workmanlike efficiency to Mankell’s prose; he unravels the plot with a minimalist’s style, encapsulating all that needs to conveyed in so few words, thereby demonstrating his immense talent. There are few red-herrings here, and the mystery is admittedly simple, the ending ultimately telegraphed: but its extrication is seductively rendered. It leaves you wanting more, but in the best possible way.

AN EVENT IN AUTUMN is not a full-length Wallander mystery, and while it acted as an appetizer for me, returning readers will find it a satisfactory dessert, or even the cherry on top, after many years of acclaimed storytelling. My journey with Mr. Mankell and his detective is just beginning. I can’t wait.

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