The Man From Beijing

image Author: Henning Mankell

Publisher: Knopf (2008)

The book starts with a wolf that enters the town of Hesjovallen that is deserted because someone came and murdered everyone. An older man discovers a body in blood, gets in a car accident, and has a heart attack, dying in the process. Enter the investigators Vivi Sundberg that has to figure out who responsible for this Swedish massacre. Then we are introduced to judge, Birgitta Roslin from another town who learns that her grandparents were killed in that massacre. Then we are introduced to these Chinese brothers – San, Guo Si, and Wu, who have to leave their home in China because the landowner has murdered their parents and will come find them to pay a debt. As the book unravels, these three stories are intertwined in a roundabout way that makes the ending anticlimactic.

 As a book club selection, this book was a doozy. Perhaps it was the translation from the Swedish language to English, but I found this book very hard to get into and read. The English was stilted, stiff, trite, too direct, too much the way people don’t talk but should, and not fun or interesting to read. The plot started interesting enough; I thought the author would stay and thrill the reader in the way the story started. I thought this story would be more of a thriller the way it started with each different character section. But as much as each part was necessary to tell all parts of this story, this didn’t work as a whole. It was so damn awkward and blah that I found it so very hard to care. There was social commentary about the Chinese government and affairs which was clunky and bogged down the story; the direction of this tale was on pause as the characters talked about the Chinese government. I was bored to tears. I found myself scanning most of those sections to see what else would happen which was Nothing! I like fiction with current affairs integrated when it’s done well; even Dan Brown made history entertaining and I’m not too enamored with his work. If you are a fan of this author’s work, pick this up. If you are not familiar with Henning Mankell’s work, avoid this and try his other series. As a stand alone work of fiction, The Man From Beijing was weak, uninteresting, and bland.

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