My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There’s a rumor going around that Henning Mankell has written his final novel in this popular series, and in The White Lioness, we see Wallander beginning to burn out of police work. The mystery begins when he’s called into a missing persons case, that of a religious, happily married mother. It grows into something much deeper – something international, in fact, with the potential to disrupt the balance of power in Africa.
This is a plot that is slow to develop, with layers of complexity that fail to connect until late in the novel. Who would have reason to kill this woman? How does her death tie in to events in South Africa? What do Russian mobsters have to do with either? It is only when police find a severed finger at the location of her last known whereabouts that Wallander can begin to narrow his investigation. From this point forward, a good half of the action does not involve him at all, but takes place near Pretoria. Mankell does a magnificent job in portraying life during the final years when apartheid, depicting the lives of a few of the disenfranchised and a few who are part of the white minority government. The focus is on an assassination plot to be carried out by a cadre of vicious Russian mercenaries.
There would be no mystery without the African plot and characters, but, being the sort of reader who prefers it when the protagonist plays the largest role,I experienced Lioness as a letdown, well-written as it is. Wallander makes some problematic decisions, which lead to his jumping into a series of situations that will come back, again and again, to haunt him. Considering that Kurt is never psychologically strong, some of the fallout seems likely to result in permanent damage.