The Troubled Man   The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell  (2012 fiction)

I was making my entrance, slowly and appreciatively, through this multilayered story, when my eye caught one of the advertising blurbs, “A moving portrait of a man entering old age,” from the London Times Literary Supplement. This was key. No wonder I was fascinated by Wallander’s erratic pace, pessimistic world view, interpersonal challenges, and above all, traitorous memory. This detective story, Henning Mankell’s last, included many incidents and observations I am experiencing. Kurt Wallander has beginning dementia, and his failing powers and miscalculations are pitted against a Swedish situation which should not have been nearly as difficult. I have experienced many of the dementia moments – forgetfulness and lack of recognition, and in my case, crying like a baby, uncontrollably – which knock Wallander off his detecting stride. There is a story, a search for a missing couple, one of whom is The Troubled Man, which did not engage me. The search is conducted by Wallander, whose personal odyssey did not only engage but also unmanned me with shared experiences. Wallander’s family circumstances eventually deliver him into the dark night of dementia. And overshadowing these two developments, this is Henning Mankell’s last book. He dies as he releases demented Wallander into retirement. What does a retired policeman do? I recommend The Troubled Man for a worth ad, but I am pondering the word “worthwhile.” I am retired from at least three livelihoods but had never come to terms with retirement. It took a mental health specialist of very few words to spell out the non-negotiable negatives. No driving in spite of 70 blameless years. No adult decision-making, especially in a law practice! Maybe I should be grateful to Mankell for publicizing common features of forced retirement and beginning dementia, features I find more and more people recognize and accept.  Live one day at a time, in the present moment. Exercise as much as makes sense, and drink plenty of water.  


Reviewed by Martin Waldron


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