Before the Frost by Henning Mankell

henning mankell before the frost

My battered copy

Remember I said I had Opinions about this book? With a big, bold, fat O? Well, here’s some of them.

I picked this up┬ásecond hand so I can’t complain much about the edition or the quality of the print but there is indeed a big difference in my reading experience and enjoyment of the book depending on how good and pleasant the printing is. And this one wasn’t great. Small, cramped, not very easy to open… But good for carrying around, so there’s that!

I actually quite enjoyed this book. The plot was formulaic, yes, but it was well-constructed and compelling. It doesn’t succeed as much with the twists as Mankell seems to believe it will but I don’t fault him for that. Maybe it’s my fault… after a million Scandi crime novels I might be too used to their style and tricks to be surprised.

I was expecting a Kurt Wallander book and I got a mostly Linda Wallander book with what I’d guess is the worst of big Wallander thrown in. Now that was quite surprising of this book: the main characters exhibit what I like to call the believable lie trick. You’ve probably heard it before: if you want to make a lie more believable, add something embarrassing to the story. People don’t like being embarrassed so why would they lie about it? That’s the main principle. Sometimes, authors, in their quest to avoid the ever-annoying Mary Sue character, go overboard in the opposite direction and they concoct people almost too damaged or too flawed to be human. Linda and Kurt are a little like that. Unhealthy relationships all around, damaged as you can get at their respective ages and wholly and completely self-absorbed. The only defining qualities these characters have are either embarrassing (too much weight and too little exercise, unwelcome bowel movements, etc) or downright despicable (bouts of rage that involve hitting each other or throwing ashtrays). However humanising flaws and mistakes can be, humans also possess good qualities, which is part of what makes us likeable and relatable.

My beef with the characters aside, this book was quite entertaining. A touch predictable, yes, but interesting and certainly recommendable.

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