Henning Mankell wrote most of his novels starring Kurt Wallander in the 90s, but apart from the design of the mobile phones and computers, they might as well be written today. Mankell used crime fiction to expose the cracks in the Swedish welfare state and to highlight problems such as growing inequality, social unrest, cultural tensions and racism.
In the 90s Sweden saw a wave of refugees from the Balkans, which led to long-lasting problems concerning schools, jobs and housing. In 2015 there was a huge stream of refugees due to the war in Syria and the society is now trying to deal with the consequences. So, the cracks Mankell saw are still there, but they have widened.
Mankell´s aim was also to show that violence and crime were no longer found only in the big cities, but the threats present in a globalized society reach out everywhere, e.g. a small town like Ystad. This is even more apparent today, with an increase in gang-related shootings and hand grenade attacks, terrorist activities, drug smuggling and other violent crimes. President Trump´s notorious “Last night in Sweden” speech was extremely exaggerated – but not quite untrue.
Mankell´s fictional character Kurt Wallander makes recurrent complaints concerning the organization of the police, the lack of enough policemen and resources. Today the Swedes can read about the shortcomings of the police every day in the newspapers. The police force has to prioritize violent crime and shootings and the number of cases resolved by the police has fallen.
Wallander wonders if he should be a policeman at all, because he feels lost and alienated in a Sweden he perceives as changing. He is disillusioned and pessimistic, but still he stoically goes on with his investigations, in search of justice for the victims. He never gives up, in spite of his fears and faults, thus giving us all hope for a better society.
So, if you have missed the Kurt Wallander series, it´s not too late. You are in for some really suspenseful crime stories – and you´ll get some interesting insights into the Swedish society.