Eye of the Leopard

Mankell, Henning. The Eye of the Leopard. Translated by Steven T. Murray. New York: Random House, 2009.

Reason read: Read in honor of Levy Mwanawasa Day in Zambia.

Jumping between Hans Olofson’s Swedish childhood in Norrland and adult life in Mutshatsha, Africa, Eye of the Leopard depresses its reader with hopelessness and failure. Hans tries to escape memories of a father driven to drink out of loneliness and a series of personal tragedies by embarking on the quest that once belonged to a now deceased girlfriend. Janine wanted to see the mission station and grave of a legendary missionary, but as a 25 year old white European, Hans is confronted with grim realities. Janine’s dream is not his to obtain. Not only is he sorely out of place due to ignorance, his skin color is monumentally hated. A series of abandonments haunt him: his father left him for the bottle, Janine died, his best friend disowned him, and his mother just plain vanished when he was a small child. Sweden was a mediocre existence; an ultimate dead end. Even Africa is not what he envisioned for himself. Despite being ready to leave as soon as he arrives, Olofson takes a job on an egg farm. His own actions confound him. While Africa gives him a clean slate from everyone who deserted him and every failure he experienced in Norrland, he can’t imagine calling a place like Africa home.
The title of the novel comes from Olofson’s obsessive hallucination of a leopard in the African bush. The leopard comes to be symbolic of everything Olofson can’t escape.

Quotes that got me, “It is a constant reminder of a sailor who wound up in the utterly wrong place, who managed to make landfall where there wasn’t any sea,” “In every person’s life there are ill-considered actions, trips that never needed to be taken,” and “He feels like a conman who has grown tired of not being unmasked.”

Author fact: Mankell traveled to Africa. Many suspect parts of Eye of the Leopard to be autobiographical.

Book trivia: Eye of the Leopard is a departure from Mankell’s Swedish mysteries. Incidentally, there was a National Geographic documentary of the same name produced in 2006. Completely unrelated to the book, though.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Eye of the Leopard except to say it takes place in Zambia, just after it achieved independence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the penultimate chapter simply called “Zambia” (p 266).

August Behind Me

August was…the final push to move back into the new library space. People who used to work there won’t recognize it. August was also the finishing of the deck and patio. It looks awesome. Sidelined by injury I only ran 60.86 miles this month. But. But! But, here are the books:

  • Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill
  • Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell (AB)
  • Lost City of Z by David Grann
  • The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  • Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch
  • Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich
  • ADDED: Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  • ADDED: Dorothy Gutzeit: Be True and Serve by Dorothy Gutzeit (ER)

My favorite was Dogs of Riga followed by Anarchy and Old Dogs.

Dogs of Riga

Mankell, Henning. The Dogs of Riga. Read by Dick Hill. Blackstone Audio, 2006.

Reason read: Sweden is beautiful this time of year.

Kurt Wallander is back! I first met the detective in a much later book (book 7). He still drinks too much, still has trouble with relationships and still loves coffee and the opera. This time Kurt is pulled into a Latvian murder mystery. At first, the mystery is centered on two well dressed individuals found dead in a life raft. After it was determined the crime originated out of his jurisdiction Wallander assumes he is off the hook. That is, until the Riga inspector assigned to the case is also found murdered. Complicating matters is the fact Latvia is fresh from breaking ties with Russia. Suspicion runs high and corruption is rampant in Riga. Add a love interest and you get the perfect thriller.

Book trivia: It was such a bummer to learn that this is part of a series and I have started to read them out of order. This is book #2. I already read #7. I said that already.

Author fact: It was such a bummer to learn that Mankell died last year.

Audio fact: read by Dick Hill.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Baltic States” (p 34).

August Ahead

My obsession with moving rocks has come to an end now that the big boys are playing in the backyard. This hopefully means I’ll scale back to just two fanatical activities: running and reading. Or reading and running. I wonder who will win out? I am in the last month of training before the half marathon, but here are the books planned for August:

  • Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. I have been able to read other books in the series in one to two days.
  • Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell – in honor of July being one of the best times to visit Sweden (listening as an audio book).
  • Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon by David Grann in honor of August being the driest month in the Amazon.
  • The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann in honor of August being Aviation month.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin in honor of Baldwin’s birth month (print & AB).
  • Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch in honor of Busch’s birth month (short stories).
  • Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich in honor of Columbia’s independence.

PS – on the eve of posting this I ran 7.93 miles. Why the .93? My calf/Achilles started to give me grief so I had to stop. Now I wonder if the running has a chance to catch the books?

Return of the Dancing Master

Mankell, Henning. The Return of the Dancing Master. Read by Grover Gardner. Blackstone Audio, 2008.

I love the way Henning Mankell writes. There is something so dramatic about each and every word. A warning though, his scenes of violence are not for the faint of heart. Even if you have never been victim or even witness to a violent crime Mankell makes you feel right there in the moment. It’s as if the violence is happening to you. Very cringe-worthy material. Case in point – the brutal torture and murder of retired policeman Herbert Molin sets the stage for the Return of the Dancing Master. Stefan Lindman takes a medical leave of absence from his job as a police officer in order to battle mouth cancer. While in the waiting room of his doctor he reads about the murder of Molin. As a way to keep his mind off his illness Lindman decides to investigate Molin’s murder as Molin was once a colleague of sorts back in the day. Lindman finds himself getting deeper and deeper into the investigation when another man is murdered. As he comes to realize Molin was not the man he thought he knew, Lindman starts to question his own relationships.

Small disappointment – the crime scene of Molin’s murder is his house. Lindman breaks into the house after the real police assigned to the case have left. He is able to discover Molin’s diary wrapped in a raincoat which proves to be a vital clue. How did the real investigators miss that? There are other pieces of evidence that Lindman uncovers before anyone else, like the camping site of the killer. Again, how did the police miss that?

Postscript ~ the audio version is amazing. For starters, there is a whole cast of people reading the parts so women actually play women and so on. Also, at the end is a small piece of music so one can picture the dancing master taking a spin on the floor with a student. It’s a little eerie.

Reason read: July is the best time to visit Sweden.

Author fact: To learn more about Mankell go here.

Book trivia: Most of Mankell’s books include a character named Kurt Wallander. Mr. Wallander doesn’t make an appearance in The Return of the Dancing Master.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 232).

Man From Beijing

Mankell, Henning. The Man From Beijing. Read by Rosalyn Landor. New York: Random House Audio, 2010.

The opening scene to The Man From Beijing (aside from the judicial oath) is stunning. Mankell describes in haunting detail the travels of a lone wolf as it hungrily searches for prey. I won’t spoil it by saying anything more. Suffice it to say this scene sets the tome for an ominous story. After visiting a wolf and wilderness center in Colorado my mind’s eye can see this solitary wolf (and it’s ever present hunger) with detailed clarity which makes Mankell’s opening scene even more chilling.

Henning Mankell is a master at writing mysteries. The Man From Beijing is no exception. The story starts with nineteen people, concentrated in one tiny Swedish village, brutally murdered. Most of the victims are elderly and the level of violence inflicted on them is unprecedented. Even their pets have been viciously attacked and killed. As the details of the massacre unfold the plot becomes multi-generational, spanning 150 years; and international, taking place in China, Zimbabwe, the United States and, of course, Sweden.

Reason read: I needed a “wild card” story for the fun of it. I chose The Man From Beijing because it isn’t attached to any other story (Mankell writes mostly series).

Author Fact: Mankell was the first winner of the Ripper Award.

Book Trivia: The Man From Beijing is an international best seller. According to IMDB it was made into a television movie in 2010.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 223).