The recent passing of Henning Mankell, the Swedish author who created Kurt Wallander, one of crime fiction's finest "great detectives" set me musing about the qualities that make fictional characters great and the qualities that make great detectives. <Mankell Bio>
Great detectives catch criminals that no one else can. And they are standard bearers for their cultures' ideas and ideals of justice (their culture as described in the novels). They also have big personalities and stand apart from their comrades-in-detection and are smarter, luckier, crazier and much more driven than those around them. They also have enemies: giant, larger-than-life, epitome-of-evil enemies to pit their wits against.
Sherlock Holmes is such a character, of course. And I think Mankell's Kurt Wallender belongs in the category too. But wow! Very different personalities. Holmes represents the British Empire--arrogant, manic, entitled. Mankell represents the Swedish welfare state: anxious, caring, depressed. But both solve extraordinary crimes with extraordinary skill. And both are oddly loveable.
In a private homage to Mankell, I reread The Troubled Man, the last book in the Wallender series and it is as I remembered: one of the most moving series finales ever. Don't miss it. <More about the Wallander series>
Reading The Nature of the Beast, the new Three Pines/ Gamache novel by Louise Penny reminded me that the first book in the series, Still Life, was finally adapted for video last year. The dishy Nathaniel Parker (Inspector Lynley) makes a wonderful Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete. Still-Life-the-Video is good entertainment but not as funny as the books--perhaps because the characters are less eccentric. <More about the series of books.>
Below: English actor Nathaniel Parker
I'm reading Louise Penny's new Armand Gamache novel, The Nature of the Beast (#11). It's set in the magical village of Three Pines and delivers Penny's customary trifecta of suspense, humor and affecting characters. When Penny revealed the mysterious something that was hidden in the woods near Three Pines, I whooped with delight. Review to come soon.<More about the series and the other books in it.>
Meanwhile, I discovered that Minotaur, the publisher, is running a fun series on its site about real-life places that have inspired the fictional locations in the Gamache/ Three Pines series. <Check it out here.>
Below: Canadian author Louise Penny