The Fifth Woman is part of a Swedish mystery series by Henning Mankell. My mom recommended it as a good summer beach read, so I decided to give it a try. I love the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson, and was hoping that this book would give me some of that dark Scandinavian thriller I was looking for. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.
It starts out strong: an old man is found dead in a pit in the field behind his house, impaled on sharpened bamboo sticks. Detective Kurt Wallander takes the case, which turns out to be the first in a string of mysteriously brutal murders. Obviously, since this is a mystery, that's about all I can reveal of the plot without giving away too much.
I was really disappointed that the scary and intriguing beginning began to falter and ultimately fail towards the middle. The murderer is really obvious--telegraphed very early on, without any red herrings to divert the reader's attention. Also, the narrative really begins to lag halfway through, and by the last 50 pages I was so annoyed by the slow pace and stupidity of the detectives that I almost jumped ahead to the last page to find out if my suspicions (developed within the first 50 pages) were correct. (They were).
There was also a really strong undercurrent of sexism and homophobia that kept appearing throughout the story, which bothered me and distracted me from the story. For example, while examining a picture of three men, the detective states that one of them must be a homosexual because of the way he's leaning against a tree. Later, the same detective determines that a car witnessed speeding away by an onlooker couldn't have been driven by a woman, because women don't rev their engines. Okay...
So, I probably wouldn't recommend this book. The beginning is entertaining but the narrative doesn't keep up its momentum, which makes it difficult to finish. I'm going to look around for other (better) Swedish crime fiction, of which I understand there is a lot, to get my Larsson-style fix.