So I read "Faceless Killers" back in 2016 and never got back to the Kurt Wallander series. I enjoyed the tv show starring Kenneth Branagh and always meant to try to give the series another go when I got a chance.
I dithered between 3 and 4 stars and mostly that's because it seemed this collection showing Kurt through the years prior to the start of the first book in the series doesn't really give us any more insight into him and at times seems to contradict things that we know about him. It just shows a guy that tends to go in without thinking. A lot. He got beaten up I think in every story but one. We get to see the beginning of his ill-fated marriage with his wife Mona and he and the rest of his family's messed up interactions. And we get to hear about Kurt's bad diet and poor house-keeping. What's weird though is that we hear mention of Kurt's love of opera but it's said that he just likes it. We don't hear how he started studying it at one point and had plans on being an impresario. We also have what I consider a pretty decent relationship between Kurt and his daughter Linda and we didn't get that impression at all in "Faceless Killers." That said we do get to see Kurt's tenacity in solving cases.
The five short stories show Wallander as a young policeman and then through the years from 1969 up until January 8, 1990.
"Wallander's First Case" (4 stars)-Taking place in 1969 we get to see Kurt as a young policeman. He is dealing with his father who is not happy that Kurt is a policeman and pushes on Kurt for being a police officer when there is so much protest going on in Sweden about the Vietnam War. Kurt is dating someone new named Mona who also isn't happy with Kurt's career since he is often late to meet her. So from the start readers are treated to some of the forces in Kurt's life that want him to walk another path. When one of Kurt's next door neighbors ends up dead and the initial investigation points to suicide, Kurt starts digging due to the comments made by Detective Inspector Hemburg. We get a nice look at Kurt's ongoing doggedness in investigating. He is very good at putting together puzzles. We also get to see a sensitive side to him with regards to how his relationships with his father, Mona, and his sister go in this one. Frankly I wondered why Kurt was so hell-bent on being with Mona when she reads as pretty awful in this short story.
"The Man With the Mask" (3.5 stars)-This story takes place on Christmas Eve 1975. Kurt is now married to Mona and they have a 5 year old daughter named Linda. Mankell shows the cracks in the marriage of Kurt and Linda and the fact that they often don't have much to say to each other without fighting. When Kurt is asked to stop by on his way to his new home in Ystad to follow-up on a phone call from a woman reporting a strange man outside her store. This story starts to show some of the comments we will read later about foreigners in "Faceless Killers" when Kurt and his former boss, Hemberg have a nowhere discussion. I rated this one pretty low because Kurt blunders in again and keeps doing stupid things. I also thought that this one didn't even make much sense and just seemed to ramble on until the ending.
"The Man on the Beach" (3.5 stars)-This story takes place on April 26, 1987.This one was pretty interesting I thought. We have a man who ends up dead in the back of a cab and Kurt and the rest of his people start tracking his steps to see how he could have ended up dead. This one really just showcases how Kurt's mind works and how he is unable to let things go. We do get him fretting a lot about his marriage with Mona and how it appears to be on the rocks and that the only thing holding things together was their daughter Linda. Mona and Linda are absent for this story since Mona has taken her and Linda off to go to the Canaries.
"The Death of the Photographer" (3 stars)-This story starts off in April 1988. Kurt is dealing with being separated from Mona for about a month at this point. This story I thought was promising and very intriguing, but after a while started to ramble along until the end. It just seemed as if the story had a really interesting ending, but getting to it was pretty boring. Kurt has a somewhat personal connection to the victim in this one since this man was a photographer who took a picture of him and Mona on their wedding day. We find out the photographer (Simon Lamberg) was known to many people in Ystad and how this case affects them. The weather is constantly referenced in this one and many people mentioning waiting for spring time and warmer temperatures. It did feel as if this short story and the next that the weather was constantly referenced with hope that spring would bring something happier in most of the characters lives.
"The Pyramid" (2.5 stars)-This story starts off on December 11, 1989. Kurt is dealing with his wife Mona having left him two months prior to the start of this story. He is also in a dead on arrival relationship with a nurse he met, but still thinks of getting back together with Mona. He and Linda seemed to have a better relationship in this than the one that takes place in "Faceless Killers" when it reads as estranged. I thought that from the beginning to the end thought that this story was a mess. We have a plane crash investigation, and then the murder of two women, and we then jump away from that to Kurt having to deal with a problematic trip his father makes to Egypt. We have Rydberg and others in this one, but the story just kind of swirls in too many different directions to stay focused. When we get to the uninspired ending and then slide to Kurt being woken to start the case in "Faceless Killers."