I can’t help but wonder if I would have enjoyed this book without Kenneth Branagh’s careworn face in my mind’s eye. Faceless Killers is a grim story – you wouldn’t expect a cheery romp to be called Faceless Killers, after all – and the voice (whether the translator’s or Mankel’s) is spare and disengaged. The murders are particularly horrid, the landscape is bleak and growing colder, and so for that matter is Wallander’s life. His wife has left him and he doesn’t understand why and wants her back, and his daughter – once adoring – is now an aloof twenty-something, and his father is growing senile, and he is existing on coffee and minutes of sleep. It doesn’t get much better. The killer is elusive, and public exposure of the only real clue they have leads directly to another murder and another set of killers to catch. One unusual effect of this story of the endless slog of hard work and at times near hopelessness of the investigation is that the reader is given almost as great an uplift as the detectives when there is a break in the case.
The Masterpiece Mystery series stuck closely to the book’s plot, trimming and consolidating as needed but otherwise communicating both the mystery and the characterization beautifully. And I do have to give Branagh a great deal of credit: he was brilliant in the role, and indelible. The second book, The Dogs of Riga, has not yet been adapted (as far as I know), so I’ll have the chance to see how I do with Wallander without the tv screen in my head.