REVIEW: The White Lioness by Henning Mankell (Kurt Wallander #4)

Series: Kurt Wallander

Book Number: 4

Read this book for: realistic police procedure, history – Apartheid, mentions of historical figures, suspense, minimalist writing, Scandanavian/Nordic Noir

Quick Review: Another wonderful addition to the Wallander series; several different but overlapping and suspenseful storylines make this a satisfying read!


Kurt Wallander is called in to investigate the execution-style murder of a Swedish housewife with a seemingly perfect existence. A series of strange circumstances around her death puts him on the trail of a killer that is poised to cause an entire nation to descend into chaos.

THE WHITE LIONESS is chronologically the fourth novel in the Wallander series, but the third in publishing order, following on the heels of THE DOGS OF RIGA. Although not strictly necessary or central to the plot, some of Wallander’s behaviour is informed by and makes reference to the events of the previous novel, so I would suggest picking that one up first. In comparison to the prior novels in the series, I enjoyed THE WHITE LIONESS more than THE DOGS OF RIGA, but still not quite as much as FACELESS KILLERS.

In THE WHITE LIONESS, Mankell continues his trend of connecting the somewhat sleepy police force in Ystad to major global events through crime. While I have always felt that Mankell’s minimalist writing style was best suited to the clean and occasionally bleak Scandinavian countries, he uses Wallander to great effect as we watch him try to come to grips with the world’s major political issues as they bring problems to his own front door.

Interestingly, as Wallander’s cases become increasingly vast, we get to se more of his inner struggles. His behaviour is increasingly unpredictable, erratic and irrational – although somehow as a reader you can begin to understand his emotional reactions. Every novel opens the door a little further into Wallander’s state of mind, and that fact alone is almost enough to recommend this book on.

As for the plot, this is where THE WHITE LIONESS really shines in comparison to THE DOGS OF RIGA, with multiple interwoven and overlapping plot lines, and layer upon layer of subterfuge. It’s an excellently penned, satisfyingly complex thriller, as well as a great detective story.

I do want to point out that this edition is not perfect; I noticed several typos and defects that would benefit from a closer look by an editor. The minimalist prose is in this book almost exaggerated by the translator – I would love to see it a little more refined. Happily, this did not detract too badly from the enjoyment of reading this novel!

Pick up THE WHITE LIONESS if you are a Scandinavian or Nordic Noir fan, or even if you just love a good thriller! You will not be disappointed.

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