Kurt is moving into an uncertain old age. On the day he goes to lunch at a place where he is known well, he makes the mistake that changes his life. He takes his service pistol with him and, inexplicably, leaves it at the restaurant. The owner takes it to the police station and, after, a time Wallender placed on administrative leave, his future unclear.
Kurt is nearly sixty when Linda becomes pregnant. The father of her child is Hans von Enke, a banker and the son of a retired submarine commander in the Swedish Navy. Hakan gives himself a seventy-fifth birthday party and takes Wallender aside to tell him a long and confused story about foreign submarines in Swedish waters in the early 1980’s. Hakan is the officer responsible for making the submarine surface but, before the submarine emerges from the deep water, Hakan is given an order to end the activity. He never knows what country has violated Swedish waters but he believes it is the Russians.
A few months later, Hakan Von Enke leaves for his usual daily walk and disappears. His wife, Louise, knows nothing. Hans is convinced his father is alive but has no idea why the family has not heard from him. Then Louise disappars as well and Mankell crosses into Lecarre territory.
I found the beginning of the book slow but once Kurt makes up his mind to use his skills and his contacts to find Hakan the book is more like the Wallender novels readers have come to expect. Wallender is determined to provide answers for Linda and Hans. Hakan’s story about the submarines brings up the political confusion at the end of the Cold War. And then there are the rumors about the very successful Swedish spy who has been giving military secrets to the Russians, a female spy. What has this to do with Hakan?
Writing a review that doesn’t give away the story is difficult. There are many strands to this story and Mankell ties them all together at the end. Mankell treats Wallender with dignity. His health is failing and he has fears about his future. The author leaves no doubt that this is the last Wallender book. Mankell is letting him go. Readers don’t have to do so. After reading the end, I am going to go back to the beginning and meet Kurt Wallender again. He is one of fiction’s greatest characters.