Wallander fans may be somewhat familiar with the twists and turns of An Event in Autumn as it has already been adapted for the BBC’s Kenneth Branagh fronted version of the drama – but that isn’t to say that the novella shouldn’t be high on Mankell fans’ shopping lists right now. Chronologically slotting in right before The Troubled Man, the official last outing, An Event in Autumn finds Wallander on the cusp of purchasing a country house from his work colleague Martinson when he spots a dead hand pointing into the air in the back garden of his potential new property.
A difficult investigation ensues, the body having been buried some 50 or so years earlier and the vast majority of potential interviewees either long since departed or somewhat addled. Wallander misses his dad who lived close by and would have remembered important details. The brevity of the book (it’s just shy of 170 pages) makes the investigation rattle along at a pace but it is actually the digressions, the asides, the grumbles and the spats between Wallander and his daughter (who Mankell admits in an afterword may herself still have an investigation in her if he gets the time to write it) and Wallander and his colleagues that make for the best parts of the book. There are red herrings along the way but the conclusion feels earned and makes for a different, offbeat and unusual climax.
Of course fans will continue to bemoan the fact that Mankell has put Wallander to bed (there are no more Wallander stories he says definitively at the close of this book, adding that Conan Doyle himself knew he shouldn’t have resurrected Holmes and Mankell has learned from that error) – but An Event in Autumn is a far better conclusion to the series than The Troubled Man was. It’s also interesting to place this book alongside Mankell’s own recent literary output (A Treacherous Paradise, say, or The Shadow Girls) and recognise that brevity suits Mankell. Perhaps Mankell could take a leaf from Philip Roth’s book and treat us to a late quartet of shorter books.
Any Cop?: Certainly up there with the best books in the Wallander series.