An Event in Autumn: A Kurt Wallander Mystery
AN EVENT IN AUTUMN is not a new Kurt Wallander story. As author Henning Mankell hastens to tell us in his Afterword written for this edition, it was originally written for inclusion in a Dutch book that was given away as a sales promotion. Much longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, the book is set just prior to the events of THE TROUBLED MAN. Mankell assures us in both the Afterword and an essay on his protagonist included in this volume that there will be no more Kurt Wallander stories. More on that in a moment.
Translated with pitch-perfect care by Laurie Thompson, AN EVENT IN AUTUMN sets up Wallander’s personal involvement in a puzzling mystery that has been long concealed and dormant. Feeling unsatisfied for ill-defined reasons, Wallander is interested in buying a home in the country, well away from his current apartment in the small Swedish coastal town of Ystad. His colleague Martinson on the Ystad police force has just the place: a down-heeled farmhouse owned by a relative of his wife. So it is that in late October, Wallander visits the property and, though troubled by its somewhat deteriorating condition, is giving serious consideration to purchasing it when he discovers a grisly anomaly: a skeletal hand sticking out of the ground in the backyard.
"Translated with pitch-perfect care by Laurie Thompson, AN EVENT IN AUTUMN sets up Wallander’s personal involvement in a puzzling mystery that has been long concealed and dormant."
The rural setting becomes a potential crime scene within a couple of hours when excavation reveals the skeletal remains of a female. Forensics subsequently determine that the woman had been buried for at least a half-century and that she died by hanging. Wallander and Martinson begin a dogged investigation back through time, researching the title history of the property and missing persons’ reports, hoping that they can identify the victim in order to bring her survivors, or at least her descendents, some closure.
However, when Wallander is instrumental in making a second horrifying discovery, the mystery increases exponentially and indirectly leads him down the path he needs to explore to discover both the who and the why behind what he has found. Little does he know, though, that a mystery that has been buried in a farmhouse yard for over 50 years will put his own life in jeopardy.
AN EVENT IN AUTUMN contains all the elements that readers of the Wallander canon have come to enjoy: the sniping, good-natured and otherwise, between Wallander and his adult daughter, Linda; Wallander’s creaky stubbornness; and the occasional dark, dry banter between Wallander and Martinson. And while Mankell assures us that there will be no more stories concerning Kurt Wallander, he holds out the possibility, though not the promise, that Linda may be the subject of some future work(s). Whether that should hold true or not, AN EVENT IN AUTUMN is a welcome addition to what Mankell has already given us.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 15, 2014