” But she was convinced: this couldn’t be the handiwork of a lunatic. It was too well organized, too cold-blooded, to have been carried out by anyone but a totally calm and cool killer. Possibly, she noted in the margin, one should ask if the man had been in the place before. It was pitch dark, but he must have had a powerful flashlight. Several of the doors were locked. He must have known exactly who lived where, and probably also had keys. ” [20; 183]
A massacre in the remote Swedish hamlet of Hesjövallen during mid-winter 2006 propels this complex thriller. Nineteen people, all of whom elderly but one, a visiting 12 year old boy, that belong to three families, were found dead in several houses along with their pets. All the victims had been subjected to frenzied violence.
She had remembered rightly. This hamlet that had been struck down by unannounced evil was not just any old place. It was the village in which her mother had grown up. [5; 44]
Judge Birgitta Roslin comes across diaries from the crime scene by Jan Andrén, an immigrant ancestor of hers. The diaries uncovered happenings when Andrén was a foreman on the building of the transcontinental railroad in the United States in the 19th century. Further research reveals the journey of a railroad worker who was kidnapped in China and shipped to America in 1863. The evidence, especially the racist and misanthropic jottings about Chinese and black workers, thus corroborates the hypothesis that motive for the crime is rooted in the past.
The captain seizes some of the leading troublemakers, kills them, and ties them to other Chinese who are still alive, two at a time. Then they are forced to lie on deck, one of each pair slowly starving to death, the other decomposing. [20; 183]
The Man From Beijing is a globe-trotting thriller as snippets of evidence support that the perpetrator is a foreigner, out of a fierce desire to revenge. A small strand of ribbon found near the crime scene traces the target suspect to China, where corruption at the highest levels of the inner circle might play a role in master-minding the murders. The opening stunner in which murders are discovered trickles into a slower pace, as the book veers off to subject of Chinese and African politics. That China is trying to colonize parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique becomes a long and rather disruptive diversion from the main story. Mankell does capture the modern struggle of new China, which, in readying to join the rank of world’s superpower, strives to prove that it is possible to combine economic development and capitalism to a state that is not democratic. The ending, though very gripping, might have left some threads untied. Moments of the book call for holding one’s breath.
363 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]