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“The White Lioness” by Henning Mankell Report

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Updated: Sep 26th, 2021

The White Lioness is a novel authored by Henning Mankell and is one of the series of inspector detective Wallander. The theme of the novel trails two side-by-side running models, one during times of erstwhile racial South Africa where the enthroned President is on the verge of giving in at the hands of the leadership of ANC. It will definitely end the 44 years rule of atrocities by Broederbond. On the other hand, the spy chief inspector is probing a case of a disappeared female.

After finding her body and the attainment of a black cut off body part on the occurrence scene, Wallander feels that the case has deep penetrations in the history and contemporary developments in South Africa, where Broederbond are bent upon murdering President De Klerk and aspiring to submerge the country into long drawn chaos and internal conflict. The author himself has been a curious learner of the history of this country and, therefore, released the book in the critical year of 1993.

Like several other Swedish writers, Mankell is the author of mysteries that link crimes in his country to the foreign world. His first book Faceless Killers featured provincial police inspector Kurt Wallander, who is present in this novel too, was about Turkish immigrants and Eastern European characters.

This novel authored in 1993, connects the assassination of the wife of property deader in Wall ender’s town to South Africa, where its esteemed leader Nelson Mandela has just been freed from prison, and to Russia, where the KGB is thinking of directing the destiny of released leader. We know that nothing happened to this leader; this makes the assignment of the writer still more difficult. Creating suspense in this situation becomes an uphill task. The book is also quite lengthy and writing it demands great pull. Three foreign settings and scores of significant characters endow the novel with unique characteristics.

This novel is the third in the series of Swedish mysteries casting an inspector who endeavors to solve the crime issue hatched in the framework of an international plot. It begins in South Africa when a racial supporter sends a skinny, ex-KGB murderer and a black man to prepare for an anonymous murder. The town is given huge jerk when their hiding place is ruined by the fire and everything is reduced to ashes. Residues found in the debris persuade Wallander to go to South Africa. The determined interrogator is pulled in odd circumstances, twists, and turns of all sorts but he never gives in and persists with his duties to chase the culprits.

The execution like the assassination of a Scandinavian housewife seems like no knotty case even there is a manifest suspect. However, Wallander comes to know the dogged stalker and successfully chases him. When his excuse comes out to be airtight, they feel that what appeared to be a very simple crime is actually very intricate and hazardous. The quest for the truth behind the murder, in the end, unearths an assassination plot and the inspector is in the midst of a mesh, clandestine police, and brutal foreign agent. Embracing compulsive insights into the creepy dimension of modern life with a fascinating tale of the international conspiracy, the novel keeps readers on the high blaze of suspense.

The disappearance of a woman from the town prompts the inspector and his team to start the investigations. As the inspector comes to the knowledge of the episode he smells that missing one will not be found alive, however, he has no idea of the origination of the crime and how far he would have to go the trace, those who have made this fatal accident to happen. In South African, Nelson Mandela has brought hope of freedom to the people of South Africa by bringing an end to the apartheid rule which pampered racialism and discriminated among the citizens based on their color.

Wallander is soon confronted with a situation where estranged members of the secret service of South Africa and KGB are colluding to choke his path to power after near about three decades of prison. This is a new world of globalization in which events in one part of the world have an impact on the other parts. Similarly, terrorism has global ramifications with no boundaries. Inspector and his team are embroiled in the same situation. They must preempt a hideous crime that amounts to block the tide of history. So the task is not easy to pursue.

Unlike American hard-boiled heroes who display bravado, the new cast in the European context reverberates with excessive chaos that has emerged with the hastening modernizing of our world. The health of this weary policeman is less than ideal as he prefers eating fast food, coffee, and alcohol. He does not even take normal sleeping hours. He is a middle-aged man and has already been detached from family life as a result of divorce from his wife about which he feels qualm. He is leading the life of a detective. He is an introvert and searching for a woman who will comprehend him well. He is the kind of guy who routinely thinks of the purpose of life. He not only thinks about himself but also the purpose of life of others.

Likewise, the impacts of modern life are obvious on the lives of other characters. The father of the inspector is estranged from him and he is an aged man residing on the farm near the city side where he is painting his country s’ landscapes, with the help of wood grouse and sometimes without it. His abortive endeavors to harmonize himself with his rigid fathers’ disapprobation of his choice of career are the persistent source of headache for Wallander. Whenever he is unable to visit his father the readers are filled with sympathetic feelings for this person who is an avid guardian of the law. We can note less obviously the inner thinking of the detective than the details around him.

It is more frequent that Wallander s’ inner conversation is often distracted with the imagination of grisly murders that he has to probe. It is because of this paucity of time that he has not been able to conclude his thoughts about himself. The society he has to come up with terms is the one which has strained under the cultural metamorphosis in the race; equality, morality and all this propel him and his associates into the realm of savagery that it spawns. “Wallander had never seen anything like this before. The reconstruction of death, a body returned to the scene of the killing.” Apparently, Wallander has not read the previous novel in the series, in which three bodies, among the worst he has ever seen, are returned to the scene of the killing, by one of the most dangerous killers he has ever pursued” (Mankell, 168).

The author has thrown light on the drive behind detective s’ zeal. He has explained that he aspired to pen the difficulties faced by a police officer. Later often have told the author that things around them are rapidly changing and they often feel great unease to cope with this changing world. However, Wallander is different as he discharges his duties in the most feasible manner expected from a police officer confronted with modern-day life challenges. He has a passion for his responsibilities and is not shy to take on challenges in a very bold manner. He approaches every case with greater determination and original intelligence. In the end, the case is resolved and he feels much weariness. “Poor Kurt Wallander.

Too bad he’ll never get a date, despite his weakness for legs. He never figured out why they stole the corpse, cut two of its fingers off, and returned it to the site of its death. Nor why they fried Sonja Hökberg by electrocuting her in a power substation. Nor why they went to enormous trouble and expense to get the keys and blueprints to this substation to stage this killing. Nor what they wanted with her address book. Nor why Eva Persson seemed to know this had happened, though it was not yet announced in the papers. Nor how two young women could commit such a savage murder, even if one of them had been raped” (Mankell, 258).

The range of the novel is quite wide, race relations in South Africa and the private problems of inspectors in far off Sweden connote awkwardly but the action is wallowing in human rather than political concerns: the ambivalent moral position of the black murderer and the inspectors’ extreme concentration to delineate the housewife disappearance, the tormented psyche of the Afrikaner leader.

The fascinating novel is both minute police procedural and convincible political narration. The novel has been deftly translated into English. The clues found from the scene of the explosion point to the foreign perpetrators of the crime. Similar disruptive happening in South Africa where attempts are underway to preserve the apartheid draw a close resemblance and the difference between the liberal atmosphere of Sweden and the narrowness of life in South Africa make the already conspiratorial plot more complicated.

The characters of Mankell are always sensitively captivating and White Lioness also has the same genre of characters. Apart from Wallander, the characters of terrible Kovalenko, ex KGB agent, and the South African professional assassin Mabasha are very well touched, and some of the less important characters even though only interspersed are giving surprisingly vivid presence. The author s’ insight into the other parts of the world is quite obvious when he talks extensively about the inner matters of South Africa. The region was not politically stable at the time of inauguration if the novel and general political crisis were also being seen in those times.

All this facilitates the background of the novel in which its characters are rendered some positions. “Sometimes the serial fiction is undermined. It seems Wallander is tracking down the most dangerous killer Sweden has ever known, discovers a grisly corpse that is “the worst he has ever seen”, all in the midst of “the most complicated murder investigation he had ever been in charge of”. To give another example, “Wallander had never seen anything like this before. The reconstruction of death, a body returned to the scene of the killing.” Wallander has not read the previous novel in the series, in which three bodies, among the worst he has ever seen, are returned to the scene of the killing, by one of the most dangerous killers he has ever pursued” (Mankell, 162-258).

Wallander s ‘bonds with family and lovers grow as the actual plot and the diverse criminal opus that is enmeshed in Sweden show a sketch of the current happenings in the world. The series of the author even tell a larger picture of the ailing health of Wallander, pent-up failure to begin a new relationship, and how Sweden has moved to the place where law and order have increasingly collapsed. The book is very pleasant to the readers and they wish that it should never come to an end.

The intricacies of the perplexing plot are revealed in the dreary police procedural. The book becomes credible work because of the moderation and clarity giving it weight to the point of boredom as attempts to solve a murder mystery are underway. The novel is written in the background of the countryside of Sweden and the nature of crime heralds the post-modernity with to which society is insensitive. The 20th century is all set to take on Sweden. The novel resembles American ones with a terrible persistently coming winter as a setting rather than violent society. Kurt Wallander whose delicate manly ways are ahead of his fragile physique is the main hinge.

Wise racists may observe that by the end, the inundated ideological clash between Swedish supremacists and refugee embracing liberals has settled on the side of the Swedish brand as the assassination was unexplainably brutal and in the same way foreign, its accurate way and the nature of knot exploited to tighten the noose for expecting the old woman. “The way in which the out-of-work KGB murderer must contemplate a career change and find a country with a suitably repressive government to work for is a quiet, unsettlingly hilarious, but convincing view of the late twentieth-century world from the perspective of a professional murderer” (Mankell, 138-139).

The novel raises the issues of the swiftly changing world with which the inhabitants of southern Sweden feel unease to keep pace and interwoven issues come out in the open in the form of assignation in the seemingly remote town. Orchestrates are far away, this shows the forces of globalization are in full operation. The detective with his amazing capability to unearth the plot behind the disappearance of a woman comes on the scene and rescues the troubled minds out of this confusing situation. Everything is shrouded in mystery before he is charged with the duty to solve this case. The deft handling of the police detective is wonderful and readers are full of appreciation for this character by the author of the novel.

The chaos in the Baltic States during the times of decline of the Soviet Union Empire is part of the theme of the novel. The novel attempts to portray the intermingling times of history with bloodshed and improbability. The two Latvian officers eventually show out to be a villain and the mastery characterization here is quite appreciable. The characters as major Liepa seem so dramatic that one is tired of his secondhand smoke intruding.

The efforts on part of the author are laudable. “What makes a character trustworthy? It is his changeableness. Kurt Wallander is influenced and changes as a person. Thru the different novels, he is not the same person; therefore he is himself, thus trustworthy. This makes me interested in the person. The true human being is the unfinished human being who is open, under development, and fragile. That means being alive.

– The fundamental driving force for me is to, with poor ability; create a changing of the world we live in. It becomes worse and worse on every level. It is about exploitation, plundering, and degrading. I have a small possibility to participate in the resistance. Most of the things that I do are part of a resistance, a form of solidarity work. I wish that I could do more of value and that the world changes to a place of decency” (Mankell, “biography”)

The fearless heroism displayed by the central character makes him quite distinct a character in the midst of others. Some lapses have also been observed that might be reserved for a rehearsal in the next novel. The novel keeps its readers hooked and is quite equivalent to the type of voles like Littele Drummer Girl with international social perspectives and scruples. Detailed plot with great results, some well-reckoned paragraphs, and a conventional structure is intricate and courageous than any other mystery of the detective: scores of perspectives straddling two continents and a detailed chronology in which events are recast from the angel of opposing outlooks.


Mankell, “Biography”. 2005. Web.

Kurt Wallnader, The White Lioness, Vintage; New Ed Edition. 2003.

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