(translated by Laurie Thompson)
A strangely dark tale, involving a lot of fog, walking island to island on the frozen seas around the archipelago, a mysterious cat, one man, three wives each with a daughter called Laura, some of whom may be fictional, some of whom may be dead, a different husband caught in a fishing net, naval bureaucracy and plenty of lies. And some murders.
The Swedes sit nervous in their neutrality at the outset of the war, looking across the Baltic at Germany and Russia. Lars Tobiasson-Svartman is an engineer in the Swedish navy of 1914: his job is to sound the depths of channels around the Swedish coast, especially the archipelago and to map these soundings to enable the swifter and safer deployment of boats. One day Lars discovers a hermit woman living alone on a remote island and becomes infatuated.
Mankell can of course, spin a yarn, set a scene and nicely ratchet the tension. It is accomplished, not at all what you might expect from the author of all those Wallender detective stories. This novel has an off-beat quality, an oddness, that makes it excellent bedtime reading or perhaps it should be saved for that holiday in a lonely cottage on a small island…