Writing that final book can reveal a lot about how the author feels about his character. That book can be a triumph (like Agatha Chrisitie's CURTAIN) or a crushing disappointment, like Henning Mankell's THE TROUBLED MAN, his final Wallander, which I just finshed (albeit as a book on tape).
In this plodding book, Wallander investigates the disappearance of his daughter's presumptive in-laws and worries about his own, possible descent into Alzheimers.
I won't go into too much detail about the meandering, slow–moving story, except to say Mankell was astonishingly lazy in his plotting. He seems to have made up the plot as he went along, with no clear idea of where he was going or what the solution to the mystery would be…or how all the clues he was making up on the fly would all fit together. There's a stunningly inane, unbelievable, and contrived coincidence a third of the way through the book that requires such a massive suspension of disbelief that it ruins the novel. What's even more perplexing is that, plotwise, stooping to such a ridiculous coincidence ultimately ends up being totally unnecessary. It could have been cut without changing the course of the book at all.
There are other plotting problems, ones you'd expect from a novice rather than an accomplished pro like Mankell. Whenever Wallander has a gap in his knowledge, rather than come up with a clever and interesting way for the detective to find out what he needs to know, Mankell creates instant expository characters to conveniently give Wallander the specific answers he needs and then leave the stage, never to be seen again in the novel.
As a mystery, this book is a big, and often frustrating, disappointment that comes to a very unsatisfying, clumsy conclusion that leaves many clues unexplained and most of the questions unanswered. But the novel does work as a melancholy look into the life of Kurt Wallander, a lonely and sad policeman who feels his age and fears that he is losing his grasp on his memory.
That said, Wallander's ultimate, dismal fate is dashed off in a short, terse paragraph, one that's bound to infuriate fans who have come to love the detective over the years…and that, I believe, reveals Mankell's disdain for the character that has made him an international bestselling author.