Henning Mankell is best known for his Wallander series. These Ystad-based police stories were first televised in Sweden. The popular films contrast the beauty of Skane with the dystopic vision of the author, whose pervasive gloom is shared by his character, DCI Kurt Wallander.
BBC later filmed Kenneth Branagh as Wallander, and the program was again successful. Then, deeply affected by the suicide of the brilliant young actress Johanna Sallstrom, who played Wallander's detective daughter Linda, the author discontinued writing scripts for the series.
Mankell is also involved in theatre, and has recently created an opera in Mozambique, where he has spent a lot of time. A Treacherous Paradise is quite a recent novel which draws on his familiarity with East Africa. The Swedish edition was published in 2011, with the English version appearing two years later.
Building on some small fragments of history, Mankell has re-created the world of Portuguese East Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century. The protagonist is a Swedish woman from the poverty stricken back country. When her mother sends her to the city to seek a better life, Hannah takes a job as a cook on board a ship heading for Australia by way of the Cape of Good Hope. She is soon involved in a series of adventures. Within the space of about a year, she is married and widowed twice, both times in Africa, and has inherited a brothel.
Frustrated by the violent cruelty and racism of the society in which she finds herself, Hannah tries and fails to bridge the barrier between black and white. Even so, the novel does end on a cautiously hopeful note. This book shares themes with Wallander: Mankell's work is much concerned with the evils of racism, xenophobia, and social inequality.