The Dogs of Riga

The Dogs of Riga

Second in the Kurt Wallander series.Sweden, winter, 1991. Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team receive an anonymous tip-off. A few days later a life raft is washed up on a beach. In it are two men, dressed in expensive suits, shot dead. The dead men were criminals, victims of what seems to have been a gangland hit. But what appears to be an open-and-shut case soon takes o...

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Title:The Dogs of Riga
Author:Henning Mankell
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Edition Language:English

The Dogs of Riga Reviews

  • Blair

    My impending trip to Riga gave me the perfect pretext for reading this (though it's actually the second in the Wallander series; I haven't yet read the first). Good job I wasn't relying on it as a guide to the city, as it was written prior to Latvia's emancipation from the Soviet Union in 1991, and portrays Riga as a depressing totalitarian wasteland in which every room is bugged and you're liable to get kidnapped by the Russian mafia at any point. It certainly conjures up a very vivid image, ju

    My impending trip to Riga gave me the perfect pretext for reading this (though it's actually the second in the Wallander series; I haven't yet read the first). Good job I wasn't relying on it as a guide to the city, as it was written prior to Latvia's emancipation from the Soviet Union in 1991, and portrays Riga as a depressing totalitarian wasteland in which every room is bugged and you're liable to get kidnapped by the Russian mafia at any point. It certainly conjures up a very vivid image, just not of a place I would want to visit. I loved it as a crime novel, though - the sheer amount of detail makes it very absorbing, and the plot, though too convoluted to even outline here, is perfectly paced. I can see why the Wallander books have become near-ubiquitously popular; the character is very interesting but completely believable, with so many realistic imperfections. I'm definitely going to read more of these.

  • Lyn

    Have you ever been to Latvia?

    Me neither. Turns out Riga is the capital of this Baltic state. Back in the olden days of 1991 and thereabouts, this evil empire called the Soviet Union (once and again called Russia – home of the Rooskies) controlled a big chunk of the globe, especially the cold wintry parts.

    Including Riga, Latvia. (**I was happily showed otherwise when I first posted this review, check out the comments below and the friendly reader from sunny and warm Riga)

    Another cold and dark pla

    Have you ever been to Latvia?

    Me neither. Turns out Riga is the capital of this Baltic state. Back in the olden days of 1991 and thereabouts, this evil empire called the Soviet Union (once and again called Russia – home of the Rooskies) controlled a big chunk of the globe, especially the cold wintry parts.

    Including Riga, Latvia. (**I was happily showed otherwise when I first posted this review, check out the comments below and the friendly reader from sunny and warm Riga)

    Another cold and dark place, though with happy trees and surly and reclusive police detectives is Sweden. Henning Mankell’s second Kurt Wallander novel was better than the first, 1991’s

    , and much of the enhanced praise comes from Mankell’s use of and exploration of the dichotomy between these northern countries and at this time and place.

    The Cold War was winding down, The Scorpions were releasing a song called

    , Ronald Reagan was telling eastern folks to

    , and Hey, let's face it, there was a lot of transformations in the world.

    In Latvia, citizens would get the choice (more or less) about whether to stay in the Soviet orbit or go it alone and free. Mankell makes another interesting observation in that not all Latvians wanted Coca-Cola capitalism, were just hunky dorey with communism but were dissatisfied at how the revolution was going. Mankell also provides a good explanation for how, when the Iron Curtain fell, Russian style gangsters were more than ready to fill the void created by the end of totalitarian rule. Why? Because they were already there and in business.

    A lifeboat with two dead Russian thugs, having been tortured and shot, washes up on the shores of Sweden. Inspector Wallander and his shift of Swedish police officers investigate until a Latvian police major arrives. Later, Wallander is summoned to Riga to help the Latvian police and he gets embroiled in the changes sweeping the communist world.

    An inspired, introspective but dynamic story told with style and character.

  • Kemper

    Poor old Kurt Wallander. I just want to buy the guy a beer and tell him to quit being so hard on himself.

    The Swedish police detective isn’t faring much better in the second book of the series than he was in the first. Still lonely after his divorce and worried about his flighty daughter and elderly father, Wallander has also lost his best friend on the police force to cancer. The new breed of crime rising in the early ‘90s in Sweden continues to shock him and makes him uncertain whether he shou

    Poor old Kurt Wallander. I just want to buy the guy a beer and tell him to quit being so hard on himself.

    The Swedish police detective isn’t faring much better in the second book of the series than he was in the first. Still lonely after his divorce and worried about his flighty daughter and elderly father, Wallander has also lost his best friend on the police force to cancer. The new breed of crime rising in the early ‘90s in Sweden continues to shock him and makes him uncertain whether he should even continue being a cop.

    When a life raft with a couple of tortured and murdered bodies washes up on shore, Wallander doubts that there will be any way to solve the crime, and when the victims turn out be from Latvia, he’s all too happy to turn the case over to the Latvian detective sent to investigate. Of course, things don’t go that smoothly and Wallander ends up having to travel to Riga and finds himself wrapped up in dangerous political and police corruption as the country struggles to free itself from the last remains of Soviet communism.

    Like the first novel, Faceless Killers, the main appeal in the books is the character of Wallander. A great everyman sort of detective, who is very insecure about his professional skills and private life, Wallander seems always on the verge of just giving up in frustration. Yet he always manages to keep plodding along and working on the case at hand, and showing the kind of grim determination that others call bravery even if Wallander would scoff at the idea.

    It’s been very interesting to read these Swedish books that were written right as communism fell in Eastern Europe. It gives a lot of new perspective to what that part of the world had to deal with.

  • Michael

    I was looking forward to reading this one because it hadn't been adapted for Kenneth Branagh's Wallander TV series, which I've been a fan of. I suppose I should have wondered instead why they'd skipped it. This one starts off ok, with an intriguing mystery of suited men, dead of gunshot wounds, adrift in a dinghy. There's some interesting hangovers from Faceless Killers, not least Wallander's former confidant, the deceased detective Rydberg haunting his decision making. Mankell tries to establis

    I was looking forward to reading this one because it hadn't been adapted for Kenneth Branagh's Wallander TV series, which I've been a fan of. I suppose I should have wondered instead why they'd skipped it. This one starts off ok, with an intriguing mystery of suited men, dead of gunshot wounds, adrift in a dinghy. There's some interesting hangovers from Faceless Killers, not least Wallander's former confidant, the deceased detective Rydberg haunting his decision making. Mankell tries to establish two of the underused characters from the first book, Martinsson and Svedberg, and Wallander is having more health problems but before we can relax into the investigation he introduces a twist and Wallander ends up going solo for some extended cloak and daggering in Riga, Latvia. It's very much a book nailed into 1991, in that transitional period between the Baltic state's break with Russia and eventual adoption into the EU. Descriptively there's hardly anything beyond generic urban areas with brief statements of being in the countryside. Wallander voices Mankell's philosophical musings about national identity interspersed with dollops of canine symbolism. Let's face it Wallander isn't James Bond. In fact he's probably more in line with Michael Crawford's Condorman. I look forward to reading the next book in the series which hopefully will have Wallander, shouting at his subordinates, stuffing down cold pizza and struggling with his personal life in Sweden - where he belongs.

  • Harry

    , the second in the Kurt Wallander series places Wallander outside of his comfort zone: in Riga, capital of Latvia and without the presence of his familiar Swedish colleagues to whom we were introduced in the first of the series.

    An oft rendered opinion of Americans by Europeans is that the average European appears to know more about American politics than does the average American. And so it is with slight amusement that I find Wallander cast adrift in the same

    , the second in the Kurt Wallander series places Wallander outside of his comfort zone: in Riga, capital of Latvia and without the presence of his familiar Swedish colleagues to whom we were introduced in the first of the series.

    An oft rendered opinion of Americans by Europeans is that the average European appears to know more about American politics than does the average American. And so it is with slight amusement that I find Wallander cast adrift in the same boat: he knows nothing about Latvia. Kurt is in fact ignorant of the eastern bloc nations and chides himself as to that fact as the novel finds him comparing Sweden, which he considers relatively droll, grey, cold, and saturated with a certain ennui, looks suddenly like the jovial Caribbean islands when compared to post Cold War Latvia.

    Spy stuff. Hyper-inflation; crime as always politically motivated; KGB-like watchdogs everywhere; bugs as standard in hotel rooms; buildings and structures made of grey concrete left to whither in the country side; violent and secret interrogations; crime syndicates in cohort with corrupt government officials as they vie for post Cold War spoils; an anti-communist underground movement that meets regularly to oppose the betrayal of communism (yeah, I had to read that twice too); police officials where allegiances fall based on shifting power. For Wallander, it is like trying to hold onto a greased ball. Unnerving and gastronomically ominous.

    Struggling with the death of Rydberg to the big C, Wallander takes comfort in having dialogues with Rydberg's ghost instead. Alone and miserable in Riga he is drawn to self delusion: convinces himself that he is in love with the wife of the murdered detective, the crime he is there to solve at the bequest of the Latvian police. But, is love really love when its origins lie in a another person's need for him? Kurt prefers not to dwell on that, prefers his momentary delusions.

    When thinking about the character of Kurt Wallander I could say he seems indeterminate, a bit clueless, often allowing events to shape the course of his actions, as opposed to shaping events himself. And just as I'm thinking this, I sense I'm wrong about that. He is a policeman married to his job (even as he continues his self delusion by threatening to quit and apply for a private security position). What at first seems like instinct, is actually years of experience coming to the forefront in short, brilliant bursts of revelation. Wallander knows this about himself and trusts it. Unfortunately, I think in this novel Mankell does Wallander a disservice as I don't think the resolution has much to do with any sort of brilliant insight on Kurt's part (ergo the 3 star rating). Still, he is like a blood hound that once having sniffed its prey, will follow the trail until it ends, one way or another.

    When your whole personal life is shit: it is often the job that carries you through the worst parts of it. And Wallander understands that.

    -----------------------------------------------------

    is an internationally known Swedish crime writer known mostly for this fictional character Kurt Wallander. He is married to Eva Bergman.

    Henning Mankell - Author

    It might be said that the fall of communism and the consequent increase in Swedish immigration and asylum seekers has been the engine that drives much of Swedish crime fiction. Mankell's social conscience, his cool attitude towards nationalism and intolerance is largely a result of the writer's commitment to helping the disadvantaged (see his theater work in Africa). In this vein, readers might be interested in his stand-alone novel

    a thriller set in Africa and inspired by the AIDS epidemic (Mankell often traveled to Africa to help third world populations); or read his

    , a haunting novel juxtaposing a man's coming of age in Sweden and his life in Zambia.

    Mankell's love of Africa, his theater work on that continent, and his exploits in helping the disadvantaged is not generally known by his American readers. In fact, an international news story that has largely gone unnoticed is that while the world watched as Israeli soldiers captured ships attempting to break the Gaza blockade, few people are aware that among the prisoners of the Israelis was one of the world's most successful and acclaimed writers: Henning Mankell.

    It is no exaggeration when I say that Henning Mankell is by far one of the most successful writers in Scandinavia, especially in his own country of Sweden. The Nordic weather, cold to the bones, drives its populace indoors for much of the year where cuddling up to read the latest in crime fiction is a national pastime.

    For many GR readers who have been introduced to Kurt Wallander it is interesting to note that ultimately the success of bringing Mankell to English speaking audiences only came after bringing in the same production company responsible for Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy for the wildly popular BBC version starring Kenneth Branagh. Viewers had no problem with an anglicized version of Mankell's work, an English speaking cast set down in a genuine Swedish countryside. Of course, to those fans thoroughly familiar with Mankell's work, it is the Swedish televised version that is found to be a more accurately portrayal of Mankell's novels...not the British, sensationalized version. And there's a reason for that.

    Henning's prose is straightforward, organized, written mostly in linear fashion, a straightforward contract with the reader. It is largely quantified as police procedural work. The work of men who are dogged and patient to a fault. Kurt Wallander, the hero in Mankell's novels, is the alter ego of his creator: a lonely man, a dogged policeman, a flawed hero, out of shape, suffering from headaches and diabetes, and possessing a scarred soul. Understandably so and if some of the GR reviews are an indication; like his famous father-in-law Ingmar Bergman, Mankell is from a country noted for its Nordic gloom. But before you make the assumption that this is yet another addition to the somberness and darkness that characterizes Nordic writing Mankell often confounds this cliche with guarded optimism and passages crammed with humanity (for Mankell, this is true both personally and professionally as a writer).

    As Americans we often think of Sweden as possessing an very open attitude towards sex and that this is in marked contrast (or perhaps reprieve) to the somber attitudes of its populace. But this is a view that often confounds Swedish people. The idea of Nordic carnality is notably absent in Mankell's work, as much a statement of its erroneous perception (Swedes do not see themselves as part of any sexual revolution at all) and in the case of Mankell ironic because the film director most responsible for advancing these explicit sexual parameters (for his time) was his own father-in-law the great Ingmar Bergman. In a world where Bergman moves in a universe where characters are dark, violent, extreme and aggressive - take note that the ultimate root of this bloody death and ennui lies in the Norse and Icelandic Viking sagas of Scandinavian history - that dark, somber view ascribed to both Mankell and Bergman's work was often a topic of intense jovial interest between these two artists.

    For any reader of Nordic crime fiction, Henning Mankell is an immensely popular and staple read.

    Enjoy!

  • James Thane

    Swedish detective Kurt Wallander is plunged into another depressing mystery when two bodies wash ashore on the Swedish coast in a life raft. The two male victims have been shot to death and then wrapped in an embrace in the lifeboat and cast adrift. They are carrying no identification, but their dental work suggests that they are from somewhere in Eastern Europe.

    The victims are finally traced to Latvia and a police official from Riga named Major Liepa comes to Sweden to participate in the invest

    Swedish detective Kurt Wallander is plunged into another depressing mystery when two bodies wash ashore on the Swedish coast in a life raft. The two male victims have been shot to death and then wrapped in an embrace in the lifeboat and cast adrift. They are carrying no identification, but their dental work suggests that they are from somewhere in Eastern Europe.

    The victims are finally traced to Latvia and a police official from Riga named Major Liepa comes to Sweden to participate in the investigation. It seems clear that the crime did not occur on Swedish soil and so Wallander is happy to pass the case on to his Latvian counterpart and assume that his job is done.

    In fairly short order, however, complications ensue and Wallander winds up going to Latvia to assist in the continuing investigation. The story is set in the early 1990s in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Soviet Union is teetering and this has major implications for the satellite countries that have been dragged into its orbit, Latvia included.

    The tension in the country is palpable. Native Latvians hope to take advantage of the international situation to win their freedom from the Soviets, but many Soviet transplants to the country want to maintain ties to the Soviet Union. The police force itself is divided and no one knows who to trust.

    The bulk of the book, then, takes place in Latvia against the backdrop of these tensions. Wallander is basically a fish out of water, especially since he cannot speak Latvian. The case he is investigating becomes increasingly complex, and Wallander is soon at the mercy of forces beyond his control.

    Wallander continues to be a fairly dour character who is now plunged into a very depressing situation. In other words, although well-written, this is not a book likely to brighten anyone's day. The situation in Latvia is described very believably, and Mankell has clearly done a lot of research. My problem with the book is that, in the end, I could not sustain the level of disbelief required to make the story work.

    Wallander makes some decisions along the way that left me scratching my head and which were so illogical as to take me out of the story. And I found the climax to be way too implausible. This is one of those series that I read fairly infrequently. Wallander is an interesting character, but he works best for me if I visit him sparingly.

  • Semjon

    Das war der Wallander, der mir bislang am wenigsten gefallen hat. Dabei sind viele Elemente im Buch enthalten, die ich an Mankells Krimireihe schätze. So ist die Zerrissenheit des Kommissars bezüglich seines Berufs und sein Hadern mit dem Alter wieder vergleichsweise zu anderen skandinavischen Thrillern hervorragend beschrieben. Doch dieses Buch hat für mein Empfinden zu deutliche Schwächen im Kriminalfall.

    Mankell hat das Buch 1992 geschrieben, und man merkt ihm deutlich an, dass er die zu diese

    Das war der Wallander, der mir bislang am wenigsten gefallen hat. Dabei sind viele Elemente im Buch enthalten, die ich an Mankells Krimireihe schätze. So ist die Zerrissenheit des Kommissars bezüglich seines Berufs und sein Hadern mit dem Alter wieder vergleichsweise zu anderen skandinavischen Thrillern hervorragend beschrieben. Doch dieses Buch hat für mein Empfinden zu deutliche Schwächen im Kriminalfall.

    Mankell hat das Buch 1992 geschrieben, und man merkt ihm deutlich an, dass er die zu diesem Zeitpunkt herrschenden politischen Veränderungen in seinen Roman unbedingt integrieren wollte. Insofern verlegt er die Handlung größtenteils nach Lettland, welches 1991 gerade wieder unabhängig wurde. Die Stimmung im grauen Riga wird sehr gut eingefangen und wenn Mankell nicht versucht hätte, einen wahnsinnig großen Komplott in sein Werk einzubauen und den kleinen Wallander als quasi Kleinstadtkomissar zum schwedischen Geheimagenten umfunktionierte, dann wäre es ein richtig gutes Buch geworden. Wallander als Mischung von Jason Bourne und Ethan Hunt, der in das Allerheiligste der lettischen Polizei im Geheimen eindringt, um dann im Archiv in den Mülleimer zu kacken und eine kleine blaue Akte zu stehlen, die dann alles auflöst, ist einfach zu viel des Guten für mich. Wallander, bleib in Schonen in Zukunft. Think global, act local.

  • Jennie

    Kurt Wallander, Swedish detective, is inexplicably sent to Latvia to investigate the death of a Latvian police officer who was killed ...in Latvia.

    Wallander doesn't know why he's in Latvia. Henning Mankell doesn't appear to know why Wallander is in Latvia.

    don't know why Wallander is in Latvia. After 300 pages of Wallander being driven around Latvia, being cold, eating omelettes, drinking coffee, wandering around with a map, and sitting around asking himself why he's in Latvia, I don't actuall

    Kurt Wallander, Swedish detective, is inexplicably sent to Latvia to investigate the death of a Latvian police officer who was killed ...in Latvia.

    Wallander doesn't know why he's in Latvia. Henning Mankell doesn't appear to know why Wallander is in Latvia.

    don't know why Wallander is in Latvia. After 300 pages of Wallander being driven around Latvia, being cold, eating omelettes, drinking coffee, wandering around with a map, and sitting around asking himself why he's in Latvia, I don't actually care. The subplot of shadowy...whatever they were...freedom fighters...? made no sense whatsoever (seriously, he's investigating the death of a police officer and he voluntarily lets himself be taken around by guys who throw hoods over his head? To hang out with people with whom he can barely communicate in bad English? Who

    that?), and the other subplot with the love interest was ridiculous. Wallander is 40-ish, not 14.

    I should have paid attention to my instinct to drop this in the discard pile, but I was determined to ride it out. I'm going to pay attention to my instincts from now on.

  • Jan-Maat

    Once upon a time I heard tell of a poet who always travelled with the same three books: the Bible, Don Quixote and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. It was probably a symbolist poet now that I come to think of it

    . Although I approve of travelling with a book or two - I'll admit to being a bigamist reader - as a rule I prefer a little more variety even if this does require prolonged dithering in

    Once upon a time I heard tell of a poet who always travelled with the same three books: the Bible, Don Quixote and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. It was probably a symbolist poet now that I come to think of it

    . Although I approve of travelling with a book or two - I'll admit to being a bigamist reader - as a rule I prefer a little more variety even if this does require prolonged dithering in front of the book shelves. Sometimes though I entrust myself to fate, or more accurately, the glory and the grandeur of the airport or station station book seller. And this led me to pick up

    .

    A couple of snarling dogs on the cover, the author had a familiar name, looked as though it would fit in a coat pocket - what more could I want?

    Sadly it turned out that I wanted a great deal more.

    I see a lot of people have liked this book a lot. Perhaps they are all crazy. As a hypothesis this seems just a little sweeping, so maybe it's me. I had the same problem with this as with

    . I enjoy the characters and the settings, but with the second or more murders the story loses it's credibility for me. In this case I was also unconvinced by Wallander's ability to smuggle himself back into Latvia and the final denouement.

    I suppose I buy into the gritty realism of the detective novel and simplistically take this to mean that it will be realistic. Perhaps you've read

    , perhaps you read the papers or follow the news and know that most murder cases are not at all like the stories in Detective fiction, but still perhaps you are still able to enjoy such stories. I can't. They just stick in my throat after the second murder. I read about the second murder and I remember the man who tried to murder his parents by driving them into a canal. British canals on the whole aren't that deep and are typically full of sludge. So the man got out of the car and stood on the roof to get it to sink faster. Passers-by gathered on the tow paths and shouted at him until he got down and let his parents out of the car. Later he drove round to their home and killed them with a

    The problem with this kind of stupidity is that it doesn't make for long novels. However it is real and brutal. Crime novels on the other hand generally seem too clever to be plausible. If I was reading a book about city bankers in the middle of which a dragon crashed into Bishopsgate I'd put it down to the culture of dugs and drinking among raider-traders. But intricate plotting in a murder story? Nah. Can you get suspension of disbelief transfusions yet?

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