Kurt Wallander

Kurt Wallander is a fictional character created by Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell (1948 – 2015). The protagonist of several mystery novels, set in and around the town of Ystad, 56 km (35 mi) south-east of the city of Malmö, in the southern province of SkÃ¥ne. Kurt Wallander has been portrayed on screen by the actors Rolf LassgÃ¥rd, Krister Henriksson and Kenneth Branagh.


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Wallander is said to live on Mariagatan in Ystad.

As a young police officer, he was nearly killed when a drunk, whom he was questioning, stabbed him with a butcher’s knife (this is mentioned in the account of his first case). Wallander was once married, but his wife Mona left him and he has since had a difficult relationship with his rebellious only child, Linda, who barely survived a suicide attempt when she was fifteen. He also had issues with his late father, an artist who painted the same landscape 7,000 times for a living; the elder Wallander strongly disapproved of his son’s decision to join the police force and frequently derided him for it.

Wallander is a great fan of the opera; while in his car he regularly listens to recordings of famous opera singers such as Maria Callas, and when he can find the time goes to opera performances, sometimes crossing over to Copenhagen, Denmark for this purpose. At one time, Wallander had dreamed of making opera his life, leaving the police force and becoming the impresario of his friend, Sten Widén, a tenor who aspired to sing opera. But Widén’s voice was not good enough and the dream came to naught—a crushing disappointment in Wallander’s life (as in Widén’s).

Inspector Wallander has few close friends and is known for his less-than-desirable lifestyle; he consumes too much alcohol and junk food, exercises very little, and sometimes struggles with anger. He frequently regards the crimes he investigates on a very personal level, throwing himself into catching criminals and going against the orders of his superiors to try to solve a case, often with negative effects on his emotional stability.

Over the years he has grown increasingly disillusioned with his work and often wonders whether he should have become a police officer at all. He was once falsely sued and harassed for police brutality and still lives with the guilt of having shot and killed a man in the fog, an act which drove him into depression and nearly led to his resignation. His relationships with his colleagues are tentative; they are alternately amazed by his intellect and frustrated by his brusque manner and aggressive tactics.

He is frequently at loose ends socially and with his family. After the breakup of his marriage, he had an affair with Annette Brolin, the prosecutor with whom he was working on some cases — but she was married and had children, and would not consider divorcing for his sake (“Faceless Killers”). In later years, he maintains a somewhat inconsistent romantic relationship with Baiba Liepa, a woman in Riga, Latvia, whom he met while investigating a murder there, until it eventually dissolves. Over the course of the series he is diagnosed with diabetes, and towards the end of his career he suffers from memory lapses, discovering he has developed Alzheimer’s disease, with which his father was also afflicted.

The Novels

The following Kurt Wallander novels have been translated into English. They are listed in the order that they were originally published in Sweden:

Mördare utan ansikte (1991; English translation by Steven T. Murray: Faceless Killers, 1997)
Hundarna i Riga (1992; English translation by Laurie Thompson: The Dogs of Riga, 2001)
Den vita lejoninnan (1993; English translation by Laurie Thompson: The White Lioness, 1998)
Mannen som log (1994; English translation by Laurie Thompson: The Man Who Smiled, 2005)
Villospår (1995; English translation by Steven T. Murray: Sidetracked, 1999)
Den femte kvinnan (1996; English translation by Steven T. Murray: The Fifth Woman, 2000)
Steget efter (1997; English translation by Ebba Segerberg: One Step Behind, 2002)
Brandvägg (1998; English translation by Ebba Segerberg: Firewall, 2002)
Pyramiden (1999; short stories; English translation by Ebba Segerberg with Laurie Thompson: The Pyramid, 2008)
Handen (2004; novella; originally published in Dutch (2004) as Het Graf (The Grave).[1] Published in Swedish, 2013. English translation by Laurie Thompson: An Event in Autumn, 2014)
Den orolige mannen (2009; English translation by Laurie Thompson: The Troubled Man, 2011)


The order that the novels occur in the timeline of the series is shown below (with the title of the English translation shown in parentheses). Note that there is some overlap in the timeline among the novels as there are three separate series.

Pyramiden (The Pyramid)
Mördare utan ansikte (Faceless Killers)
Hundarna i Riga (The Dogs of Riga)
Den vita lejoninnan (The White Lioness)
Mannen som log (The Man Who Smiled)
Villospår (Sidetracked)
Den femte kvinnan (The Fifth Woman)
Steget efter (One Step Behind)
Brandvägg (Firewall)
Innan frosten (Before the Frost)
Handen (An Event in Autumn)
Den orolige mannen (The Troubled Man)

Spinoff: Linda Wallander

The following novel features Wallander’s daughter Linda in the lead, while he is a secondary character:

Innan frosten (2002; English translation by Ebba Segerberg: Before the Frost, 2005)

It was intended as the first of a spinoff trilogy. However Mankell was so distraught after the suicide of Johanna Sällström, the actress playing the character at the time in the Swedish TV series, that he decided to abandon the series after only the first novel.

Film Series

Between 1994 and 2007, all nine Wallander novels were made into films in Sweden starring Rolf Lassgård as Wallander:

Mördare utan ansikte [Faceless Killers], 1994.
Hundarna i Riga [The Dogs of Riga], 1995.
Den Vita lejoninnan [The White Lioness], 1996.
Villospår [Sidetracked], 2001.
Den 5e kvinnan [The Fifth Woman], 2002.
Mannen som log [The Man Who Smiled], 2003.
Steget efter [One Step Behind], 2005.
Brandvägg [Firewall], 2006.
Pyramiden [The Pyramid] (video only), 2007.

TV series (Swedish)

From 2005 to 2006, 13 new stories, starring Krister Henriksson as Kurt Wallander and Johanna Sällström as Linda Wallander, were produced. The first film, based on Before the Frost, was released in cinemas. The rest are original stories not based on any of Mankell’s books, and were released on DVD, with the exception of Mastermind which was also released in cinemas.

Innan frosten [Before the Frost].
Byfånen [The Village Idiot].
Bröderna [The Brothers].
Mörkret [The Darkness].
Afrikanen [The African].
Mastermind [Mastermind].
Den svaga punkten [The Tricksters].
Fotografen [The Photographer].
Täckmanteln [The Container Lorry].
Luftslottet [The Castle Ruins].
Blodsband [Bloodties].
Jokern [The Joker].
Hemligheten [The Secret].