Synopses & Reviews
In this latest atmospheric thriller, Kurt Wallander and his daughter Linda join forces to search for a religious fanatic on a murder spree. Just graduated from the police academy, Linda Wallander returns to Skane to join the police force, and she already shows all the hallmarks of her father the maverick approach, the flaring temper. Before she even starts work she becomes embroiled in the case of her childhood friend Anna, who has inexplicably disappeared. As the case her father is working on dovetails with her own, something far more dangerous than either could have imagined begins to emerge. They soon find themselves forced to confront a group of extremists bent on punishing the world's sinners.
"An arresting story by an arresting writer....[Mankell] understands and probes the underside of everyday living in an elegant and artful way....He is able to look loneliness square in the eye. The result is writing that walks a line between ephemeral and everlasting." The Washington Post
"[P]owerful....Thoroughly engaging....Amazingly human characters....It's a testament to Mankell's skill with plot that the story gets more and more urgent as he transforms a series of small mysteries into a much larger thriller....Mankell [is] a master storyteller." San Francisco Chronicle
"Seamlessly translated by Ebba Segerberg, Before the Frost displays all aspects of Mankell's talent for melding the topical and the unpredictable." Los Angeles Times
"I salivate with anticipation at the prospect of more from the pen of Mankell, for he is one of the finest of his genre a Scandinavian Ian Rankin with a passion for exploring the dark side of human nature....A masterpiece of atmospheric creation." Glasgow Herald
"Henning Mankell would be Samuel Beckett's favorite police procedural writer. He's certainly mine." Boston Globe
"As the mystery comes to its somewhat obvious climax, readers will be intrigued enough by Linda and her struggles to keep reading. And send them back to the library, to get to know Kurt better." Detroit Free Press
About the Author
Internationally acclaimed author Henning Mankell has written numerous Kurt Wallander mysteries. The books have been published in thirty-three countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe, receiving major literary prizes (including the UK's Golden Dagger Award in 2000) and generating numerous international film and television adaptations. Born in a village in northern Sweden in 1948, Mankell divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as the director of Teatro Avenida.
Reading Group Guide
1. What kind of woman is Linda Wallander? In what ways is she both like and unlike her father? What is the appeal of reading about a policewoman in a genre dominated by men?
2. How does Before the Frost illuminate the growing religious violence around the world, from the Christian Rights bombing of abortion clinics here in the United States to the Islamic fundamentalists campaign of terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere? What does the novel reveal about the motives and psychology of religious extremists?
3. In what ways does Linda Wallander prove herself throughout the novel? At which crucial moments does her willingness to trust her intuition enable her to make breakthroughs in the case? Could the case have been solved without Linda?
4. Throughout the novel, the reader knows more than the detectives who are trying to solve the case. Why does Mankell structure his narrative this way? Why doesnt he leave readers in the dark? How does this tension between what readers know and what the characters know create suspense?
5. Some religious believers have long felt that direct communication with God is the highest form of spirituality. What does Before the Frost reveal about the dangers of claiming to know Gods will?
6. Erik Westin thinks, “Im not crazy. . . . I put my trust in God and his plan” [p. 249]. And at the end of the novel Linda and her father conclude that Westin “was by no means a madman” [p. 365]. What is the difference between fanaticism and insanity? How closely linked are those traits in people like Erik Westin?
7. Late in the novel, Erik Westin says, “I could not have managed this without the help of Jim Jones” [p. 312]. What has he learned from Jones?
8. Why are Anna Westin, Tolgeir Langaas, and others so susceptible to people like Erik Westin? What do their lives lack that makes them long for something to believe in and an authority to submit to?
9. Linda finally sees that the mysterious phrase “myth fear” that she found in Annas journal was simply an anagram for “my father.” What is the significance of this anagram? What does “myth fear” have to do with Annas father? How do myth and fear operate in the novel?
10. How can Before the Frost be read as an exploration of the father-child relationship? How does Linda feel about her father? How does Anna feel about hers? How does Kurt Wallander feel about his own father? What does the novel as a whole seem to be saying about the significance of these relationships?
11. Henning Mankells novels are unusual in their exploration of emotional complexities, so that the crime-solving aspects of the stories are balanced by rich and full character development. How is this achieved? What does this element add to the story?
12. At the end of the novel, the police officers gather around the TV to see a special report on the terrorist attacks that have just happened in New York on September 11, 2001. Why doesnt Mankell show readers their reaction or elaborate on the parallels between 9/11 and the religious violence occurring almost simultaneously in Sweden? What are those parallels?
13. When Linda hugs the desperate woman who she talked down from a rooftop, she had “the strangest feeling that she was hugging herself” [p. 374]. Why does Mankell end the novel with this episode? What kind of resolution does Linda achieve in this embrace?
“Gripping, beautifully orchestrated. . . . Henning Mankell is an addictive writer.” -Los Angeles Times Book Review
The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enliven your groups discussion of Before the Frost, the gripping new novel by internationally bestselling author Henning Mankell.