Harvill Secker, 2008
Reviewed by Helen Lloyd
When Kurt Wallander first appeared in 1990 he was a senior police officer,
forty-two years old and divorced. The five stories in this collection fill
in Wallander's back story, from his first years in the police force until
the beginning of that first book, FACELESS KILLERS.
The stories begin when a twenty-one year old Wallander finds his elderly
neighbour shot dead. He is still a uniformed police officer in Malmo, but
with a transfer to Criminal Investigation pending, his future boss
encourages his involvement in the investigation of the apparent suicide.
A routine call on his way home on Christmas Eve 1975 turns into a
terrifying couple of hours for Wallander in The Man with the Mask.
In this suspenseful short story Wallander is held hostage by an armed and
desperate man. Despite the circumstances, Wallander’s compassion and
social conscience are evident.
By the third story, The Man on the Beach, and after a gap of 12
years, Wallander is settled in Ystad as a Chief Inspector, and all the
familiar supporting characters from the books are there. When a taxi
driver finds his passenger dead in the back seat, tests reveal he had been
poisoned. Wallander discovers the long-standing obsession that led to the
A man is found bashed to death in his studio in Death of the
Photographer. Why someone who led such an apparently dull and routine
life would be subject to such a brutal attack is mystifying, but the
investigation reveals that the man had a secret life.
The last story, which gave the collection its name, is novella length, and
takes place in December 1989. It leads right up to the beginning of
FACELESS KILLERS - literally. In a clever touch, Mankell brings the
beginning of FACELESS KILLERS into the last page of THE PYRAMID. In this
complex story, Wallander and his team are stretched to the limit
investigating several seemingly unrelated crimes: the crash of an
unidentified small plane, drugs, and several apparently unconnected
I found THE PYRAMID an extremely satisfying collection of stories. All the
elements that helped form the Wallander we have come to know from the
novels are here: Mona, the woman he married; his eccentric father, and
their difficult relationship; and Rydberg, his mentor. And throughout is
the theme common to the books, of a changing society – what was happening
These are typical Wallander stories, with the longer stories demonstrating
the complex plots Mankell is known for. From that first case, Wallander
displays the investigative style he will manifest throughout his career:
the intuitive leaps, doggedness, tendency to make mistakes, and go it
alone, often putting himself at risk in the process.
The stories chart the progress of Wallander’s seemingly always doomed
relationship with Mona, first as girlfriend, then wife and ex-wife. The
conflict between his career and the relationship is clear from the
beginning. Even when Wallander is married to her, Mona’s role in the
stories is insignificant, and she remains a shadowy figure in the
Rydberg, the mentor whose wisdom he constantly refers to in the novels, is
likewise hardly any more fleshed out. Wallander’s early years in Ystad,
when Rydberg’s guidance would have been most evident, are not covered in
any of the stories. Rydberg spends a lot of the time off sick, so we see
only a little interaction between them.
According to Mankell’s Foreword to this book, this collection came into
being when he realised that he had started writing stories in his head
that took place long before that day in January 1990 when the Wallander
series began. Two of the stories have not been published before.
Most short story collections lend themselves to being dipped into, picking
a story here and a story there. However, THE PYRAMID is better read as a
whole from beginning to end. THE PYRAMID is essential reading for fans of
the Kurt Wallander series, but reads well on its own, and it would work
well as a first introduction to Wallander for newcomers to the series.
Oct 2008 review originally posted on Murder and Mayhem
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