10 July 2011

Review: The Man From Beijing

The Man From Beijing
Henning Mankell

We read this book for book group in the month of June, and the overall average score that this book received was a 3.43 out of 5. Originally I gave it a 4 star rating, but upon considering things as I prepared for this post I think I would have to knock my rating down to a 3.5, so I don't know what that would do to the above average.

Henning Mankell is a well-known author, though this was the first of his books that I had ever read. I got the free sample from Amazon and was hooked - the brutal murder all but guaranteed a great story that I would really enjoy. I love murder mysteries and intrigue.

I did enjoy the book as I was reading it. Let me say that upfront, because I would be insincere if I were to just criticize it and leave it at that.

The things I liked about the book:
1. I wanted to read it and see what happened next in the story, because I was interested in the way things played out.

2. The crime-solving narrative was interesting. As was the railroad narrative.

The problems that I had with the book:
1. There was a serious lack of tying up loose ends. I wasn't expecting everything to fit together really well like an episode of Law & Order or anything; there were just things that seemed like they were going to be important for a fair amount of time that ended up being relatively inconsequential and were never addressed, but I don't want to ruin the story so I won't say what they were here.

2. I think that it's possible that Mankell suffers from a bad translator, because a lot of the language seemed really forced and unbelievable.

3. The actual premise behind the murders was *somewhat* far-fetched. I say somewhat with a certain level of sarcasm, because it seemed really unrealistic.

4. The different parts, with the different narratives, didn't make the story hard to follow, but it seemed like they could have been separate books on their own and Mankell just didn't want to take the time to develop them very well.

5. There were many things that various characters did that seemed completely out of character, but they weren't explained in any way. It seemed like Mankell didn't have notes on the characters when he wrote the story, or that wouldn't have happened.

Okay, so would I recommend the book? Sure. But I wouldn't want you to expect it to be another Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Because it isn't. Where Stieg Larsson wrote a relatively complex story that was really well-developed, Mankell fell short on the development part and got a little too complex without explanation. Of course, I think that Mankell churns out a lot of books, so he might not have time to worry about these things.

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