Sorry, so sorry, that title's awful, don't know how I've got the nerve, but at last my first encounter with Kurt Wallender, soon to be played by our Ken (Branagh), and all courtesy of Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell. It's all gone as smoothly as any trip out with Kurt can do and I am now on the lookout for the next in the series, The Dogs of Riga. The challenge is that I must find all these in charity shops as I go along.
Kurt has a big following at the Endsleigh Salon and I can see why. I've listened to all the conversations about this brusque and flawed Swedish detective and so I almost felt I knew him before I'd even laid eyes on him. Arnaldur Indridason had also prepared me well here and here for the character traits of these brooding Nordic policemen. Erlendur and Kurt would get along famously because they share many of the classic characteristics.
They have hopeless family lives, absent wife, problematic children.
They are unlucky in love.
They are gruff and abrupt.
They have minimal dress sense.
They drink excessively.
They like classical music (I can't actually recall, does Erlendur like classical music? If not Kurt would educate)
They rarely eat five portions of fruit and veg in a week, let alone a day.
Holiday? What's a holiday?
Happiness? What's happiness?
To be solved, the murder and torture of an elderly couple in an isolated farmhouse and the subsequent racially motivated crime that starts to spread when the old lady's dying word, 'foreigner', is leaked to the press.
Constantly and acutely aware of all his own personal failings and incapable of addressing them effectively, Kurt must bury them under his professional persona, and with these two interweaving crimes to resolve he has barely a minute to acquire one lot of bruises before he's sporting the next lot. Give the man some arnica because Kurt certainly throws himself into all this with gusto and he's a decidedly thoughtful and considerate leader of his men too, often to his own cost. Never assigns them the nightime surveillance duties without donning his thermals and doing the midnight to morning stint himself.
There's a little warm heart beating inside this grizzly of a man.
The whole point was to read the books before Kenneth Branagh becomes Kurt for the TV series but a strange reverse thinking came into play.
I spent the entire book visualising Ken in the role, exactly how would he stiffen up the sinews and summon up the blood to become a cop?
How would he portray this action-prone, battle-scarred detective?
How sensitively would our Ken deal with his pre-senile father, his wayward daughter and his recently separated wife?
How would he look hanging upsidedown on the scaffolding by his foot?
Would he be able to hang upsidedown on the scaffolding by his foot?
Should we really risk Henry Vth hanging upsidedown on the scaffolding by his foot?
In fact, though I'm a mere novice to the Mankell ranks, I think Ken will do very nicely for Kurt, and I'm counting this one into the Around the World in Eighty Books challenge too and then it's off to The Tinker, because I just know he'll love these.
Meanwhile no sign of The Dogs of Riga in Woodside Animal, The Mare & Foal Sanctuary or The Cat's Protection League charity shops, all my hopes are obviously pinned on The Labrador Trust.