The novel opens with the aftermath of the massacre of most of the very old inhabitants of a remote village, arguably the worst crime that has ever happened in Sweden. The very well-described police and law-enforcement apparatus are confused by having no leads at all about the attack, and are very conscious of the intense media interest and public outcry. The main police detective is Vivi Sundberg, a red-haired, something, career policewoman who is most intriguing and whom I would have liked to see feature more.
I hope she will appear again in future. Like everyone else, Birgitta reads about the case in the newspapers and sees news broadcasts about it. When the names of the victims are released, Birgitta realises that she has a connection with two of the victims, who were her deceased mother's foster parents.
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She looks out some old documents from her mother's possessions and as a result travels north to see for herself what happened. Vivi allows Birgitta to visit the house in which her sort-of relatives died, and while there, Birgitta makes a discovery which, together with her mother's documents, makes her suspicious that the crime is part of a much bigger story.
The police are not interested in her theories, even when she finds several leads locally, and her Internet research leads her to discover a similar crime that was committed in the USA a few days previously. Her foibles make her believably human. Birgitta is not the main character. That would be the man from Beijing, Ya Ru. He belongs to a family with ties to the older Communist hierarchy, but Ya Ru himself is one bad capitalist. He has made billions through business deals, graft and power brokerage, and for well and ill he represents the coming China.
In his office towering high in the center of town, Ya Ru has a muscular splendor, searing foresight, an iron memory and an ancient grudge. He also has an unshakable vision of a capitalist China, which he will profit from and help drive.
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For him, the socialist past is moribund, and he is ready to do anything to get what he wants. His sister, Hong Qui, is rigidly committed to the socialist past. Brother and sister have an icy war of words; their showdowns feel like fate itself, the conversation of present with past.
Hong surprises us. Amid her merciless devotion, she shows a rich inner life.
The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell | Book review | Books | The Guardian
She becomes friends with Birgitta, who has traveled to Beijing with her friend Karin. From then on, an informal network of female friends faces off against a towering, male-dominated bureaucracy. The occasion: a winter blizzard that virtually isolated his northern residence.
The temporary loss of telephone service might concern others, but for Mankell, it was bliss to be suddenly transported back to the natural quietude of his youth. In his latest mystery, The Man from Beijing, the best-selling author of Swedish crime fiction revisits his past in a different way.
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His heroine, Birgitta Roslin, is a college radical turned principled judge who finds herself swept up in worldwide intrigue. Of course, we immediately leapt at the chance to publish Mankell here. But, as Bogaards notes, deconstructing the mania for Nordic crime fiction leads to a chicken-or-the-egg question about who launched the trend.
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The Man from Beijing opens in January with a gruesome discovery: 19 residents of the remote Swedish village of Hesjovallen, most of them members of the Andren family, have been brutally and inexplicably massacred. Judge Roslin, whose mother grew up in the village, finds a diary kept by Jan Andren, an ancestor who describes his immigration to America and his role as a foreman during the construction of the transcontinental railway. Cut to