THE TROUBLED MAN by Henning Mankell is the 10th and final book in the Kurt Wallander series. At 60, Wallander is no longer in command of his "troops"; he is diabetic, overweight, doesn't exercise, eats the wrong foods, sometimes drinks too much, experiences memory failures, and has trouble sleeping. He is always worried about something and takes the weight of the world, as he knows it, upon his shoulders. His daughter, also a member of the police, has found the love of her life and has just had a daughter. Wallander is thrilled to be a grandfather.
As he thinks about his coming retirement, he decides it's time to buy a house and get the dog he has yearned for over the years. Things seem to be on schedule until he is invited to the 75th birthday party given for Håkan von Enke, the father of his future son-in-law. The two men get along very well, and von Enke tells Wallander a story about a Russian submarine that was in Swedish waters in 1980. He was told to stand down by his superiors when he was about to fire a depth charge, and still doesn't understand the order to abort.
The next thing Wallander knows, von Enke goes out for his morning walk and never returns. His wife, Louise, is prostrate with worry, and his son can't believe that he would just walk away. The man had been a submarine commander and was greatly respected by his colleagues. After retiring, he lived a nice life, had good friends, and while always on guard still seemed content.
Wallander cannot help but get involved in the investigation, even though it's not in his jurisdiction. The policeman in charge welcomes Wallander's help, and the two work well together. As the investigation unfolds, he has the chance to meet people who knew von Enke and gets a real sense of the man from his friends. He also learns about Cold War activities that even he finds confusing.
About a month passes without a sign or sound from von Enke. And then Louise disappears, too. Did this couple have some kind of plan, and is she meeting him somewhere? No! She's dead. She's found fully clothed with her shoes neatly placed next to her body. Is this a suicide? Or murder? Can von Enke be dead too?
The troubled man of the title may be Kurt Wallander…or could it be von Enke? Or both? Two aging men are facing their futures in different ways but with heavy hearts. Wallander ruminates and broods throughout the novel. Mankell is wonderful at leading readers through the labyrinthine thoughts that go through Wallander's mind --- how he evaluates himself as a man, a father, a policeman and a failed husband. The writing is spot-on with not a single word out of place or frivolously inserted. THE TROUBLED MAN may be Mankell's finest novel. Readers can only hold their collective breath awaiting his next book. What he has planned is a true mystery.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on May 2, 2011