A Bulky Hand is the twelfth and final novel in the series by Henning Mankell on the investigations of Inspector Kurt Wallander. This inspector he created and to whom he says he gave some resemblances to himself.
But beyond this narrative bias, the author lends to his hero feelings, behaviors of which it is not certain that it is only those of the inspector: the story takes place in 2002, the book is published in 2013 and, in January 2014, the author made public the condition he suffered from, advanced cancer, which prevailed in October 2015.
Coincidence? Premonition? Predicting fatigue? Did he already know?
Anyway, a good part of this brief novel relates as much to the life of the inspector as to the plot itself: his weariness of life, his advanced age, the difficulties of the profession, the politics of the figure , the new delinquency, the insufficiency of the means, the assessment of an honorable but dissatisfied life … The incapacity to change by a too late rupture, even for simple holidays in the sun
In his note Wallander and I, Mankell affirms two things which seem questionable on reading the novel.
– I think I can say that it has never happened that Willander takes a more important place than history … It is not sure that this is the case here and maybe even Mankell’s life more than that from Wallander …
– Racism is a crime against which he revolts. This gives a reflection between police officers on the little interest of the press and public opinion wheb two people disappeared…, tattares … But asks to be nuanced when reading the novel.
In this story, the place of women is politically correct: one, his hierarchical superior, is a woman but very competent, specifies Wallander, the other is a medical examiner and very reliable and Wallander’s own daughter works in the same police unit than her father.
But in the intrigue, clichés appear: a brawl between drunkards during which a Pole kills an inhabitant, disappearance of the couple of tattares who abandon a caravan, after a theft of which they fear the consequences, and who return under a false name , their granddaughter prostitute is suspected of robbery finally the investigation reveals that the drama of fifty years ago, took place in a family of foreigners, Estonians …
It’s evident that Kurt Wallander is not a James Bond policeman. He is not a man of action called upon to confront high-flying brigands and international intrigue. In a world of his own where things change, neighborly relationships…, he works with a team: under the direction of Lisa Holgersson, with collaborators as needed: Morrisson his colleague but also Stina Hurlèn, forensic scientist, Stefan who look in the registers of civil status, Nyberg who searches the garden … And even his daughter, Linda who sometimes follows him.
He does not solve the problem with sagacity at Sherlock Homes. Rather through patient teamwork, forensic science, research in archives and outside information that advances the discovery of the solution.
The characters we know something about are alone: Wallander, separated, Linda to an intermittent lover, Ivar never had a wife, we don’t know much about Katja the young prostitute …
Finally, the story begins, on a Sunday morning, with the hope of finally finding the house of his dreams and closing in on it. It is the house where a parricide was committed and which made him know the greatest fear of his life, where he saw himself facing death.
Discovering something he had never experienced before, an exhilarating whiff of life that made him realize that, despite everything, he is still alive.
A bulky hand, Henning Mankell, 172 pages, Seuil, 2014, translated from Swedish.