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The Pyramid: The Kurt Wallander Stories - Henning Mankell "Wallander woke up shortly after six o'clock on the morning of the eleventh of December. At the same moment that he opened his eyes, his alarm clock went off. He turned it off and lay staring out into the dark. Stretched his arms and legs, spread his fingers and toes. That had become a habit, to feel if the night had left him with any aches. He swallowed in order to check if any infection had sneaked into his respiratory system. He wondered sometimes if he was slowly becoming a hypochondriac."

Kenneth Branagh as Wallander

Kurt Wallander has good reason to always be checking his health. He works too many hours, his eating schedule is haphazard at best, and he goes days sometimes with little or no sleep. Really the only time he can catch up on his sleep is when he is sick and he does get sick...a lot. He suffers from crippling depression especially when he is between cases. His wife has left him. His daughter is a floating presence just off stage most of the time. His father is cranky, disappointed that his son became a cop, and like Kurt mostly lost in his own world only instead of puzzling over a murder he is painting the same landscape picture over and over sometimes with a grouse and sometimes without.

Krister Henriksson as Wallander in the Swedish version

This is a compilation of five short stories. I was under the impression that these would all be cases from his days before the novels begin. The first story is of his first case where Wallander is still in uniform, but already displaying the tenacity that makes him a valued investigating detective. The best story is also the longest story called The Pyramid which is with Kurt in his forties already divorced and in the time line falls much later in his career.

Over the course of these stories Wallander does find himself bludgeoned, smacked, knifed, tied up, attacked by a dog, and in a position where he has to use his gun to return fire at an assailant. He closes his eyes when he shoots; so his aim, to say the least, is less than perfect. Dirty Harry he is not. Despite these near death experiences Wallander seems impervious to changing the way he investigates. Once he lands on a new line of inquiry he rarely has time to find a partner to go with him. People are just annoying distractions to his thinking process. Going solo does put him at risk, but the rewards, in his mind, outweigh a potentially carelessly achieved early death.

Usually in a book series we are supposed to root for our hero to find romance. In the case of Wallander whenever a new woman has caught his attention I'm yelling, run, run for your sanity. He is mysterious and intriguing to women. They think this quiet man is thoughtful, smart, and successful. When they can get his attention away from a case he must provide all the proper responses to keep the relationship moving forward. It doesn't take long for them to learn that he is absolutely obsessed with his case load. At first they can believe that it is just THIS case and that once the case is solved Kurt will go back to being the person they perceive him to be. After several cancellations for dinner, the calls in the middle of the night that have him dashing away, and their inability to pry him away for a vacation the women start to realize that this is the way Wallander is all the time and there is no chance of them changing him into the man they want him to be.

His mind is too inverted to share his thoughts with colleagues or with people who care about him. He may stop mid-sentence to follow another clue that has suddenly clicked into place leaving the person he was talking with hanging on his last word, desperately wishing they could be a part of the world in Wallander's head. I sometimes feel the need to give Kurt a good shake, but if I am found deceased under suspicious circumstances there is no doubt in my mind I want Wallander on the case.

Ystad, Sweden the setting for the Wallander series

When I started this book I thought it would be a good place for anyone to ease into the Wallander series, but after reading it I believe that readers will like this book more after they have read a couple of the novels. The stories were solid, but were too docile to even blow Marilyn's skirt up.