About the Authors

Henning Mankell has become a worldwide phenomenon with his crime writing, gripping thrillers and atmospheric novels set in Africa. His prizewinning and critically acclaimed Kurt Wallander thrillers are currently dominating bestseller lists all over the globe. His books have been translated into over forty languages and made into numerous international film and television adaptations: most recently the BAFTA-award-winning BBC television series Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh. Mankell devotes much of his free time to working with Aids charities in Africa, where he is director of the Teatro Avenida in Maputo. In 2008 the University of St Andrews conferred on Henning Mankell an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, in recognition of his major contribution to literature and to the practical exercise of conscience.

Steven T. Murray has translated numerous works from the Scandinavian languages, including the Pelle the Conqueror series by Martin Anderson Nexø and three of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series. He founded Fjord Press in Seattle and was Editor-In-Chief from 1981 to 2001.

About the Book

Midsummer approaches, and Inspector Kurt Wallander is preparing for a holiday with the new woman in his life, hopeful that his wayward daughter and his ageing father will cope without him. But his summer plans are thrown into disarray when a teenage girl commits suicide before his eyes, and a former minister of justice is butchered in the first of a series of vicious, but apparently motiveless, murders.

Wallander’s desperate hunt for the girl’s identity and his furious pursuit of a killer who scalps his victims will throw him and those he loves most into terrible danger.

ALSO BY HENNING MANKELL

Kurt Wallander Series

Faceless Killers

The Dogs of Riga

The White Lioness

The Man Who Smiled

The Fifth Woman

One Step Behind

Firewall

Before the Frost

The Pyramid

The Troubled Man

Fiction

The Return of the Dancing Master

Chronicler of the Winds

Depths

Kennedy’s Brain

The Eye of the Leopard

Italian Shoes

The Man from Beijing

Daniel

Non-fiction

I Die, But the Memory

Lives On

Young Adult Fiction

A Bridge to the Stars

Shadows in the Twilight

When the Snow Fell

The Journey to the End of the World

Children’s Fiction

The Cat Who Liked Rain

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CHAPTER 1

BEFORE DAWN HE started his transformation.

He had planned everything meticulously so that nothing could go wrong. It would take him all day, and he didn’t want to risk running out of time. He took up the first paintbrush and held it in front of him. From the cassette player on the floor he could hear the tape of drum music that he had recorded. He studied his face in the mirror. Then he drew the first black lines across his forehead. He noted that his hand was steady. So he wasn’t nervous, at least. Even though this was the first time he had put on his war paint. Until this moment it had been merely an escape, his way of defending himself against the injustices he was continually subjected to. Now he went through the transformation in earnest. With each stroke that he painted on his face, he seemed to be leaving his old life behind. There was no turning back. This very evening the game would be over for good, he would go out into the war, and people were going to die.

The light in the room was very bright. He arranged the mirrors carefully, so that the glare didn’t get in his eyes. When he had locked the door behind him, he had first checked that everything was where it was supposed to be: the well-cleaned brushes, the little porcelain cups of paint, the towels and water, next to the little lathe his weapons in rows on a black cloth – three axes, knives with blades of various lengths, and spray cans. This was the only decision still to be made. Before sundown he had to choose which to take with him. He couldn’t take them all. But he knew that the choice would resolve itself once he had begun his transformation.

Before he sat down on the bench and started to paint his face, he tested the edges of his axes and knives. They were as sharp as could be. He couldn’t resist the temptation to press a little harder on one of the knives. His finger started to bleed. He wiped it and the knife with a towel. Then he sat down in front of the mirrors.

The first strokes on his forehead had to be black. It was as if he were slicing two deep cuts, opening his brain, and emptying the memories and thoughts that had haunted him all his life, tormenting him and humiliating him. Then the red and white stripes, the circles, the squares, and at last the snake-like designs on his cheeks. None of his white skin should be visible. Then the transformation would be complete. What was inside him would be gone. He would be born again in the guise of an animal, and he would never speak as a human being again. He would cut out his tongue if he had to.

Just after 6 p.m. he was done. By then he had chosen the largest of the three axes. He stuck the shaft into his thick leather belt. Two knives were already there in their sheaths. He looked around the room. Nothing was forgotten. He stuffed the spray cans in the inside pockets of his jacket.

He looked at his face in the mirror one last time, and shuddered. Carefully he pulled his motorcycle helmet over his head, switched off the light, and left the room barefoot, just as he had come in.

At 9.05 p.m. Gustaf Wetterstedt turned down the sound on his TV and phoned his mother. It was a nightly ritual. Ever since he had retired as minister of justice more than 25 years earlier, leaving behind all his political dealings, he had watched the news with repugnance. He couldn’t come to terms with the fact that he was no longer involved. During his years as minister, a man in the absolute centre of the public eye, he appeared on TV at least once a week. Each appearance had been meticulously copied from film to video by a secretary and the tapes now covered a whole wall of shelves in his study. Once in a while he watched them again. It was a great source of satisfaction to see that never once in all those years as minister of justice had he lost his composure when confronted by an unexpected question from a malicious reporter. He would recall with unbounded contempt how many of his colleagues had been terrified of TV reporters, how they would stammer and get entangled in contradictions. That had never happened to him. He was a man who couldn’t be trapped. The reporters had never beaten him. Nor had they discovered his secret.

He had turned on his TV at 9 p.m. to see the top stories. Now he turned down the sound. He pulled over the telephone and called his mother. She was now 94, but with a clear mind and full of energy. She lived alone in a big flat in Stockholm’s innercity. Each time he lifted the receiver and dialled the number he prayed she wouldn’t answer. He was more than 70, and he had begun to be afraid that she would outlive him. There was nothing he wanted more than for her to die. Then he’d be left alone. He wouldn’t have to call her any more, and soon he’d forget what she even looked like.

The telephone rang at the other end. He watched the silent anchorman. At the fourth ring he began to hope that she was dead. Then she answered. He softened his voice as he spoke. He asked how she was feeling, how had her day been, but now he knew that she was still alive, he wanted to make the conversation as brief as possible.

Finally he hung up and sat with his hand resting on the receiver. She’s never going to die, he thought. She’ll never die unless I kill her. All he could hear was the roar of the sea, and then a lone moped going past the house. He walked over to the big balcony window facing the sea. The twilight was beautiful. The beach below his huge estate was deserted. Everyone is sitting in front of their TVs, he thought. There was a time when they sat there and watched me make mincemeat of the reporters, back when I was minister of justice. I should have been made foreign minister. But I never was.

He drew the heavy curtains, making sure that there were no gaps. Even though he tried to live as discreetly as possible in this house located just east of Ystad, occasional curiosity-seekers spied on him. Although it had been 25 years since he left office, he had not yet been entirely forgotten. He went out to the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee from a thermos he had bought during an official visit to Italy in the late 1960s. He vaguely recalled that he’d gone to discuss efforts to prevent the spread of terrorism in Europe. All over his house there were reminders of the life he had lived. Sometimes he thought of throwing them away, but to make the effort seemed pointless.

He went back to the sofa with his coffee. He switched off the TV with the remote, and sat in the dark, thinking through the day’s events. In the morning he’d had a visit from a journalist on one of the big monthly magazines. She was writing a series about famous people in retirement, but he couldn’t really see why she had decided upon him. She had brought a photographer with her and they took pictures on the beach and inside the house. He had decided in advance that he would present the image of a kindly old man, reconciled with his past. He described his present life as very happy. He lived in seclusion so that he could meditate, he said, and he let slip with feigned embarrassment that he was thinking of writing his memoirs. The journalist, who was in her 40s, had been impressed and clearly respectful. Afterwards he escorted her and the photographer to their car and waved as they drove off.

He hadn’t said a single thing that was true during the entire interview, he thought with satisfaction. This was one of the few things that still held any interest for him. To deceive without being discovered. To continue with the pretence. After all his years as a politician he realised all that was left was the lie. The truth disguised as a lie or the lie dressed up as the truth.

Slowly he drank the rest of his coffee. His sense of well-being grew. The evenings and nights were his best time. That was when his thoughts of all that he had lost sank beneath the surface, and he remembered only what no-one could rob him of. The most important thing. The utmost secret.

Sometimes he imagined himself as an image in a mirror that was both concave and convex at the same time. No-one had ever seen anything but the surface: the eminent jurist, the respected minister of justice, the kindly retiree strolling along the beach in Skåne. No-one would have guessed at his double-sided self. He had greeted kings and presidents, he had bowed with a smile, but in his head he was thinking, if you only knew who I really am and what I think of you. When he stood in front of the TV cameras he always held that thought – if you only knew who I really am and what I think of you – foremost in his mind. His secret. That he hated and despised the party he represented, the policies that he defended, and most of the people he met. His secret would stay hidden until he died. He had seen through the world, identified all its frailties, understood the meaninglessness of existence. But no-one knew about his insight, and that was the way it would stay.

He felt a growing pleasure at what was to come. Tomorrow evening his friends would arrive at the house just after 9 p.m., in the black Mercedes with tinted windows. They would drive straight into his garage and he would wait for them in the living-room with the curtains drawn, just as now. He could feel his expectation swell as he started to fantasise about what the girl they delivered to him this time would look like. He had told them there had been far too many blondes lately. Some of them had also been much too old, over 20. This time he wanted a younger one, preferably of mixed race. His friends would wait in the basement where he had installed a TV; he would take the girl with him to his bedroom. Before dawn they would be gone, and he would already be daydreaming about the girl they would bring the following week.

The thought of the next evening made him so excited that he got up from the sofa and went into his study. Before he turned on the light he drew the curtains. For a moment he thought he saw the shadow of someone down on the beach. He took off his glasses and squinted. Sometimes late-night strollers would stop on the edge of his property. On several occasions he had had to call the police in Ystad to complain of young people lighting bonfires on the beach and making noise.

He had a good relationship with the Ystad police. They came right away and moved anyone disturbing him. He never could have imagined the knowledge and contacts he had gained as minister of justice. Not only had he learned to understand the special mentality that prevails inside the police force, but he had methodically acquired friends in strategic places in the Swedish machinery of justice. As important were all the contacts he had made in the criminal world. There were intelligent criminals, individuals who worked alone as well as leaders of great crime syndicates, whom he had made his friends. Even though much had changed since he left office, he still enjoyed his old contacts. Especially the friends who saw to it that each week he had a visit from a girl of a suitable age.

He had imagined the shadow on the beach. He straightened the curtains and unlocked one of the cabinets in the desk he had inherited from his father, a distinguished professor of jurisprudence. He took out an expensive and beautifully decorated portfolio and opened it before him on the desk. Slowly, reverently, he leafed through his collection of pornographic pictures from the earliest days of photography. His oldest picture was a rarity, a daguerreotype from 1855 that he had acquired in Paris, of a naked woman embracing a dog. His collection was renowned in the discreet circle of men who shared his interest. His collection of pictures from the 1890s by Lecadre was surpassed only by the collection owned by an elderly steel magnate in the Ruhr. Slowly he turned the plastic-covered pages of the album. He lingered longest over the pages where the models were very young and one could see by their eyes that they were under the influence of drugs. He had often regretted that he himself had not begun to devote himself to photography earlier. Had he done so, he would today be in possession of an unrivalled collection.

When he had finished, he locked the album in the desk again. He had extracted a promise from his friends that upon his death they would offer the pictures to an antiquities dealer in Paris who specialised in the sale of such items. The money would be donated to a scholarship fund he had already established for young law students, which would be announced after his death. He switched off the desk lamp and remained sitting in the dark room. The sound of the surf was very faint. Once again he thought he heard a moped passing.

In spite of his age, he still found it difficult to imagine his own death. During trips to the United States, he had managed twice to be present anonymously at executions, the first by electric chair, the second in the gas chamber, which even then was rather rare. It had been a curiously pleasurable experience to watch people being killed. But his own death he could not contemplate. He left the study and poured a little glass of liqueur from the bar in the living-room. It was already approaching midnight. A short walk down to the sea was all that remained for him to do before he went to bed. He put on a jacket out in the hall, slipped his feet into a pair of worn clogs, and left the house.

Outside it was dead calm. His house was so isolated that he could not see the lights of any of his neighbours. The cars on the road to Kåseberga roared by in the distance. He followed the path that led through the garden and down to the locked gate to the beach. To his annoyance he discovered that the light on a pole next to the gate was out. The beach awaited him. He fished out his keys and unlocked the gate. He walked the short distance onto the sand and stopped at the water’s edge. The sea was still. Far out on the horizon he saw the lights of a boat heading west. He unbuttoned his fly and peed into the water as he continued to fantasise about the visit he would have the next day.

Although he heard nothing, suddenly he knew that someone was standing behind him. He stiffened, seized with terror. Then he spun round.

The man standing there looked like an animal. Apart from a pair of shorts he was naked. The old man looked into his face with dread. He couldn’t see if it was deformed or hidden behind a mask. In one hand the man held an axe. In his confusion the old man noticed that the hand around the shaft of the axe was very small, that the man was like a dwarf.

He screamed and started to run, back towards the garden gate.

He died the instant the edge of the axe severed his spine, just below the shoulder blades. And he knew no pain as the man, who was perhaps an animal, knelt down and slit an opening in his forehead and then with one violent wrench ripped most of the scalp from his skull.

It was a little after midnight. It was Tuesday, 21 June.

The motor of a moped started up somewhere nearby, and moments later died away.

Everything was once again very still.

CHAPTER 2

AROUND NOON ON 21 June, Kurt Wallander left the police station in Ystad. So that no-one would notice his going, he walked out through the garage entrance, got into his car, and drove down to the harbour. Since the day was warm he had left his sports jacket hanging over his chair at his desk. Anyone looking for him in the next few hours would assume he must be somewhere in the building. Wallander parked by the theatre, walked out on the inner pier and sat down on the bench next to the red hut belonging to the sea rescue service. He had brought along one of his notebooks, but realised that he hadn’t brought a pen. Annoyed, he nearly tossed the notebook into the harbour. But this was impossible. His colleagues would never forgive him.

Despite his protests, they had appointed him to make a speech on their behalf at 3 p.m. that day for Björk, who was resigning his post as Ystad chief of police.

Wallander had never made a formal speech in his life. The closest he had come were the innumerable press conferences he had been obliged to hold during criminal investigations.

But how to thank a retiring chief of police? What did one actually thank him for? Did they have any reason to be thankful? Wallander would have preferred to voice his uneasiness and anxiety at the vast, apparently unthoughtout reorganisations and cutbacks to which the force was increasingly subjected. He had left the station so he could think through what he was going to say in peace. He’d sat at his kitchen table until late the night before without getting anywhere. But now he had no choice. In less than three hours they would gather and present their farewell gift to Björk, who was to start work the next day in Malmö as head of the district board of immigration affairs.

Wallander got up from the bench and walked along the pier to the harbour café. The fishing boats rocked slowly in their moorings. He remembered idly that once, seven years ago, he had been involved in fishing a body out of this harbour. But he pushed away the memory. Right now, the speech he had to make for Björk was more important. One of the waitresses lent him a pen. He sat down at a table outside with a cup of coffee and forced himself to write a few sentences. By 1 p.m. he had put together half a page. He looked at it gloomily, knowing that it was the best that he could do. He motioned to the waitress, who came and refilled his cup.

“Summer seems to be taking its time,” Wallander said to her.

“Maybe it won’t get here at all,” replied the waitress.

Apart from the difficulty of Björk’s speech, Wallander was in a good mood. He would be going on holiday in a few weeks. He had a lot to be happy about. It had been a long, gruelling winter. He knew that he was in great need of a rest.

At 3 p.m. they gathered in the canteen of the station and Wallander made his speech to Björk. Svedberg gave him a fishing rod as a present, and Ann-Britt Höglund gave him flowers. Wallander managed to embellish his scanty speech on the spur of the moment by recounting a few of his escapades with Björk. There was great amusement as he recalled the time when they had both fallen into a pool of liquid manure after some scaffolding they were climbing collapsed. In his reply Björk wished his successor, a woman named Lisa Holgersson, good luck. She was from one of the bigger police districts in Småland and would take over at the end of the summer. For the time being Hansson would be the acting chief in Ystad. When the ceremony was over and Wallander had returned to his office, Martinsson knocked on his half-open door, and came in.

“That was a great speech,” he said. “I didn’t know you could do that sort of thing.”

“I can’t,” said Wallander. “It was a lousy speech. You know it as well as I do.”

Martinsson sat down cautiously in the broken visitor’s chair.

“I wonder how it’ll go with a woman chief,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t it go well?” replied Wallander. “You should be worrying instead about what’s going to happen with all these cutbacks.”

“That’s exactly why I came to see you,” said Martinsson. “There’s a rumour going round that staff numbers are going to be cut back on Saturday and Sunday nights.”

Wallander looked at Martinsson sceptically.

“That won’t work,” he said. “Who’s going to deal with the people we’ve got in the cells?”

“Rumour has it that they’re going to take tenders for that job from private security companies.”

Wallander gave Martinsson a quizzical look.

“Security companies?”

“That’s what I heard.”

Wallander shook his head. Martinsson got up.

“I thought you ought to know about it,” he said. “Do you have any idea what’s going to happen within the force?”

“No,” said Wallander. “Cross my heart.”

Martinsson lingered in the office.

“Was there something else?”

Martinsson took a piece of paper out of his pocket.

“As you know, the World Cup has started. Sweden was 2–2 in the game against Cameroon. You bet 5–0 in favour of Cameroon. With this score, you came in last.”

“How could I come in last? Either I bet right or wrong, didn’t I?”

“We run statistics that show where we are in relation to everyone else.”

“Good Lord! What’s the point of that?”

“An officer was the only one who picked 2–2,” said Martinsson, ignoring Wallander’s question. “Now for the next match. Sweden against Russia.”

Wallander was totally uninterested in football, although he had occasionally gone to watch Ystad’s handball team, which had several times been ranked as one of the best in Sweden. But lately the entire country seemed to be obsessed by the World Cup. He couldn’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper without being bombarded with speculation as to how the Swedish team would fare. He knew that he had no choice but to take part in the football pool. If he didn’t, his colleagues would think he was arrogant. He took his wallet out of his back pocket.

“How much?”

“A hundred kronor. Same as last time.”

He handed the note to Martinsson, who checked him off on his list.

“Don’t I have to guess the score?”

“Sweden against Russia. What do you think?”

“4–4,” said Wallander.

“It’s pretty rare to have that many goals scored in football,” Martinsson said, surprised. “That sounds more like ice hockey.”

“All right, let’s say 3–1 to Russia,” said Wallander. “Will that do?”

Martinsson wrote it down.

“Maybe we can take the Brazil match while we’re at it,” Martinsson went on.

“3–0 to Brazil,” said Wallander quickly.

“You don’t have very high expectations for Sweden,” said Martinsson.

“Not when it comes to football, anyway,” replied Wallander, handing him another 100-krona note.

Martinsson left and Wallander began to mull over what he had been told, but then he dismissed the rumours with irritation. He would find out soon enough what was true and what wasn’t. It was already 4.30 p.m. He pulled over a folder of material about an organised crime ring exporting stolen cars to the former Eastern-bloc countries. He had been working on the investigation for several months. So far the police had only succeeded in tracking down parts of the operation. He knew that this case would haunt him for many more months yet. During his leave, Svedberg would take over, but he suspected that very little would happen while he was gone.

There was a knock on the door, and Ann-Britt Höglund walked in. She had a black baseball cap on her head.

“How do I look?” she asked.

“Like a tourist,” replied Wallander.

“This is what the new caps are going to look like,” she said. “Just imagine the word POLICE above the peak. I’ve seen pictures of it.”

“They’ll never get one of those on my head,” said Wallander. “I suppose that I should be glad I’m not in uniform any more.”

“Someday we might discover that Björk was a really good chief,” she said. “I think what you said in there was great.”

“I know the speech wasn’t any good,” said Wallander, starting to feel annoyed. “But you are all responsible for having picked me.”

Höglund stood up and looked out of the window. She had managed to live up to the reputation that preceded her when she came to Ystad the year before. At the police academy she had shown great aptitude for police work, and had developed even more since. She had filled part of the void left by Rydberg’s death a few years ago. Rydberg was the detective who had taught Wallander most of what he knew, and sometimes Wallander felt that it was his task to guide Höglund in the same way.

“How’s it going with the cars?” she asked.

“They keep on being stolen,” said Wallander. “The organisation seems to have an incredible number of branches.”

“Can we punch a hole in it?” she asked.

“We’ll crack it,” replied Wallander. “Sooner or later. There’ll be a lull for a few months. Then it’ll start up again.”

“But it’ll never end?”

“No, it’ll never end. Because of Ystad’s location. Just 200 kilometres from here, across the Baltic, there’s an unlimited number of people who want what we’ve got. The only problem is they don’t have the money to pay for it.”

“I wonder how much stolen property is shipped with every ferry,” she mused.

“You don’t want to know,” said Wallander.

Together they went and got some coffee. Höglund was supposed to go on holiday that week. Wallander knew that she was going to spend it in Ystad, since her husband, a machinery installer with the whole world as his market, was currently in Saudi Arabia.

“What are you going to do?” she asked when they started talking about their upcoming breaks.

“I’m going to Denmark, to Skagen,” said Wallander.

“With the woman from Riga?” Höglund wondered with a smile.

Wallander was taken aback.

“How do you know about her?”

“Oh, everybody does,” she said. “Didn’t you realise? You might call it the result of an ongoing internal investigation.”

Wallander had never told anyone about Baiba, whom he had met during a criminal investigation. She was the widow of a murdered Latvian policeman. She had been in Ystad over Christmas almost six months ago. During the Easter holiday Wallander had visited her in Riga. But he had never spoken about her or introduced her to any of his colleagues. Now he wondered why not. Even though their relationship was new, she had pulled him out of the melancholy that had marked his life since his divorce from Mona.

“All right,” he said. “Yes, we’ll be in Denmark together. Then I’m going to spend the rest of the summer with my father.”

“And Linda?”

“She called a week ago and said she was taking a theatre class in Visby.”

“I thought she was going to be a furniture upholsterer?”

“So did I. But now she’s got it into her head that she’s going to do some sort of stage performance with a girlfriend of hers.”

“That sounds exciting, don’t you think?”

Wallander nodded dubiously.

“I hope she comes here in July,” he said. “I haven’t seen her in a long time.” They parted outside Wallander’s door.

“Drop in and say hello this summer,” she said. “With or without the woman from Riga. With or without your daughter.”

“Her name is Baiba,” said Wallander.

He promised he’d come by and visit.

After Ann-Britt left he worked on the file for a good hour. Twice he called the police in Göteborg, trying without success to reach a detective who was working on the same investigation. At 5.45 p.m. he decided to go out to eat. He pinched his stomach and noted that he was still losing weight. Baiba had complained that he was too fat. After that, he had no problem eating less. He had even squeezed into a tracksuit a few times and gone jogging, boring though he found it.

He put on his jacket. He would write to Baiba that evening. The telephone rang just as he was about to leave the office. For a moment he wondered whether to let it ring. But he went back to his desk and picked up the receiver.

It was Martinsson.

“Nice speech you made,” said Martinsson. “Björk seemed genuinely moved.”

“You said that already,” said Wallander. “What is it? I’m on my way home.”

“I just got a call that was a little odd,” said Martinsson. “I thought I ought to check with you.”

Wallander waited impatiently for him to go on.

“It was a farmer calling from out near Marsvinsholm. He claimed that there was a woman acting strangely in his rape field.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes.”

“A woman acting strangely out in a rape field? What was she doing?”

“If I understood him correctly, she wasn’t doing anything. The peculiar thing was that she was out in the field.”

Wallander thought for a moment before he replied.

“Send out a squad car. It sounds like something for them.”

“The problem is that all the units seem to be busy right now. There were two car accidents almost simultaneously. One by the road into Svarte, the other outside the Hotel Continental.”

“Serious?”

“No major injuries. But there seems to be quite a mess.”

“They can drive out to Marsvinsholm when they have time, can’t they?”

“That farmer seemed pretty upset. I can’t quite explain it. If I didn’t have to pick up my children, I’d go myself.”

“All right, I can do it,” said Wallander. “I’ll meet you in the hall and get the name and directions.”

A few minutes later Wallander drove off from the station. He turned left at the roundabout and took the road towards Malmö. On the seat next to him was a note Martinsson had written. The farmer’s name was Salomonsson, and Wallander knew the road to take. When he got out onto the E65 he rolled down the window. The yellow rape fields stretched out on both sides of the road. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt as good as he did now. He stuck in a cassette of The Marriage of Figaro with Barbara Hendricks singing Susanna, and he thought about meeting Baiba in Copenhagen. When he reached the side road to Marsvinsholm he turned left, past the castle and the castle church, and turned left again. He glanced at Martinsson’s directions and swung onto a narrow road that led across the fields. In the distance he caught a glimpse of the sea.

Salomonsson’s house was an old, well-preserved Skåne farmhouse. Wallander got out of the car and looked around. Everywhere he looked were yellow rape fields. The man standing on the front steps was very old. He had a pair of binoculars in his hand. Wallander thought that he must have been imagining the whole thing. All too often, lonely old people out in the country let their imaginations run riot. He walked over to the steps and nodded.

“Kurt Wallander from the Ystad police,” he said.

The man on the steps was unshaven and his feet were stuck into a pair of worn clogs.

“Edvin Salomonsson,” said the man, stretching out a skinny hand.

“Tell me what happened,” said Wallander.

The man pointed out at the rape field that lay to the right of the house. “I discovered her this morning,” he began. “I get up early. She was already there at five. At first I thought it was a deer. Then I looked through the binoculars and saw that it was a woman.”

“What was she doing?” asked Wallander.

“She was standing there.”

“That’s all?”

“She was standing and staring.”

“Staring at what?”

“How should I know?”

Wallander sighed. Probably the old man had seen a deer. Then his imagination had taken over.

“Do you know who she is?” he asked.

“I’ve never seen her before,” replied the man. “If I knew who she was, why would I call the police?”

“You saw her the first time early this morning,” he went on, “but you didn’t call the police until late this afternoon?”

“I wouldn’t want to put you out for no reason,” the man answered simply. “I assume the police have plenty to do.”

“You saw her through your binoculars,” said Wallander. “She was out in the field and you had never seen her before. What did you do?”

“I got dressed and went out to tell her to leave. She was trampling down the rape.”

“Then what happened?”

“She ran.”

“Ran?”

“She hid in the field. Crouched down so I couldn’t see her. First I thought she was gone. Then I discovered her again through the binoculars. It happened over and over. Finally I got tired of it and called you.”

“When did you see her last?”

“Just before I called.”

“What was she doing then?”

“Standing there staring.”

Wallander glanced out at the field. All he could see was the billowing rape.

“The officer you spoke with said that you seemed uneasy,” said Wallander.

“Well, what’s somebody doing standing in a rape field? There’s got to be something odd about that.”

Wallander decided he ought to end the conversation as rapidly as possible. It was clear to him now that the old man had imagined the whole thing. He would contact social services the next day.

“There’s not really much I can do,” said Wallander. “She’s probably gone by now. And in that case, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“She’s not gone at all,” said Salomonsson. “I can see her right now.”

Wallander spun around. He followed Salomonsson’s pointing finger.

The woman was about 50 metres out in the rape field. Wallander could see that her hair was very dark. It stood out sharply against the yellow crop.

“I’ll go and talk to her,” said Wallander. “Wait here.”

He took a pair of boots from his car, and put them on. Then he walked towards the field, feeling as though he were caught in something surreal. The woman was standing completely still, watching him. When he got closer he saw that not only did she have long black hair, but her skin was dark too. He stopped when he reached the edge of the crop. He raised one hand and tried to wave her over. She continued to stand motionless. Even though she was still quite far from him and the billowing rape hid her face every so often, he had the impression that she was rather beautiful. He shouted to her to come towards him. When she still didn’t move he took a step into the field. At once she vanished. It happened so fast that she seemed like a frightened animal. He could feel himself getting angry. He went on walking out into the field, looking in every direction. When he caught sight of her again she had moved to the eastern corner of the field. So that she wouldn’t get away, he started running. She moved swiftly, and Wallander was soon out of breath. When he got as close as 20 metres or so from her, they were out in the middle of the field. He shouted to her.

“Police!” he yelled. “Stop where you are!”

He started walking towards her. Then he pulled up short. Everything happened very fast. She raised a plastic container over her head and started pouring a colourless liquid over her hair, her face, and her body. He thought fleetingly that she must have been carrying it the whole time. He could see that she was terrified. Her eyes were wide open and she was staring straight at him.

“Police!” he shouted again. “I just want to talk to you.”

At the same moment a smell of petrol wafted towards him. Suddenly she had a flickering cigarette lighter in one hand, which she touched to her hair. Wallander cried out as she burst into flame. Paralysed, he watched her lurch around the field as the fire sizzled and blazed over her body. Wallander could hear himself screaming. But the woman on fire was silent. Afterwards he couldn’t remember hearing her scream at all.

When he tried to run up to her the field exploded in flames. He was suddenly surrounded by smoke and fire. He held his hands in front of his face and ran, without knowing which direction he was heading. When he reached the edge of the field he tripped and tumbled into the ditch. He turned around and saw her one last time before she fell over and disappeared from his sight. She was holding her arms up as if appealing for mercy. The entire field was aflame.

Somewhere behind him he could hear Salomonsson wailing. Wallander got to his feet. His legs were shaking. Then he turned away and threw up.

CHAPTER 3

AFTERWARDS WALLANDER WOULD remember the burning girl in the rape field the way you remember, with the greatest reluctance, a distant nightmare sooner forgotten. If he appeared to maintain at least an outward sense of calm for the rest of that evening and far into the night, later he could recall nothing but trivial details. Martinsson, Hansson and especially Ann-Britt Höglund had been astonished by his calm. But they couldn’t see through the shield he had set up to protect himself. Inside him there was devastation, like a house that had collapsed.

He got back to his flat just after 2 a.m. Only then, when he sat down on his sofa, still in his filthy clothes and muddy boots, did the shield crumble. He poured himself a glass of whisky. The doors of his balcony stood open and let in the balmy night, and he cried like a baby.

The girl had been a child. She reminded him of his own daughter Linda. During his years as a policeman he had learned to be prepared for whatever might await him when he arrived at a place where someone had met a violent or sudden death. He had seen people who had hanged themselves, stuck a shotgun in their mouth, or blown themselves to bits. Somehow he had learned to endure what he saw and push it aside. But he couldn’t when there were children or young people involved. Then he was as vulnerable as when he was first a policeman. He knew that many of his colleagues reacted the same way. When children or young people died violently, for no reason, the defences erected out of habit collapsed. And that’s how it would be for Wallander as long as he continued working as a policeman.

He had completed the initial phase of the investigation in an exemplary manner. With traces of vomit still clinging to his mouth he had run up to Salomonsson, who was watching his crop burn with astonishment, and asked where the telephone was. Since Salomonsson didn’t seem to understand the question, maybe didn’t even hear it, he dashed past him into the house. He was assailed by the acrid smell of the unwashed old man. In the hall he found the telephone. He dialled 90–000, and the operator said later that Wallander had sounded quite calm when he described what had happened and asked for a full team to be sent out.

The flames from the field were shining through the windows like floodlights lighting up the summer evening. He called Martinsson at home, talking first with his daughter and then his wife before Martinsson was called in from the back yard. As succinctly as possible he described what had happened and asked Martinsson to call Hansson and Höglund too. Then he went out to the kitchen and washed his face under the tap. When he came back outside, Salomonsson was still rooted to the same spot, as if mesmerised. A car arrived with some of his closest neighbours in it. But Wallander shouted to them to stay back, not allowing them to approach Salomonsson. In the distance he heard sirens from the fire engines, which almost always arrived first. Soon afterwards, two squad cars of uniformed officers and an ambulance arrived. Peter Edler was directing the firefighting, a man in whom Wallander had total confidence.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I’ll explain later,” said Wallander. “But don’t stamp around in the field. There’s a body out there.”

“The house isn’t threatened,” said Edler. “We’ll work on containing the fire.”

Edler turned to Salomonsson and asked how wide the tractor paths and the ditches between the fields were. One of the ambulance crew came over. Wallander had met him before but couldn’t remember his name.

“Is anyone hurt?” he asked.

Wallander shook his head.

“One person dead,” he replied. “She’s lying out in the field.”

“Then we’ll need a hearse,” said the ambulance driver. “What happened?”

Wallander didn’t feel like answering. Instead he turned to Norén, who was the officer he knew best.

“There’s a dead woman in the field,” he said. “Until the fire is put out we can’t do anything but block it off.”

Norén nodded.

“Was it an accident?” he asked.

“More like a suicide,” said Wallander.

A few minutes later, as Martinsson arrived, Norén handed him a paper cup of coffee. He stared at his hand and wondered why it wasn’t shaking. Hansson and Ann-Britt Höglund arrived in Hansson’s car, and he told his colleagues what had happened.

Again and again he used the same phrase: She burned like a flare.

“This is just terrible,” said Höglund.

“It was worse than you can imagine,” said Wallander. “Not to be able to do anything. I hope none of you ever has to experience anything like this.”

Silently they watched the firefighters work. A large group of bystanders had gathered, but the police kept them back.

“What did she look like?” asked Martinsson. “Did you see her?”

Wallander nodded.

“Someone ought to talk to the old man,” he said. “His name is Salomonsson.”

Hansson took Salomonsson into his kitchen. Höglund went over and talked to Peter Edler. The fire had begun to die down. When she returned she told them it would be all over shortly.

“Rape burns fast,” she said. “And the field is wet. It rained yesterday.”

“She was young,” said Wallander, “with black hair and dark skin. She was dressed in a yellow windcheater. I think she had jeans on. I don’t know about her feet. And she was frightened.”

“What of?” asked Martinsson.

Wallander thought a moment.

“She was frightened of me,” he replied. “I’m not absolutely sure, but I think she was even more terrified when I called out that I was a policeman and told her to stop. But beyond that, I have no idea.”

“She understood everything you said?”

“She understood the word ‘police’ at least. I’m certain of that.”

All that remained of the fire was a thick pall of smoke.

“There was no-one else out there in the field?” asked Höglund. “You’re sure she was alone?”

“No,” said Wallander. “I’m not sure at all. But I didn’t see anyone but her.”

They stood in silence. Who was she? Wallander asked himself. Where did she come from? Why did she set herself on fire? If she wanted to die, why did she choose to torture herself?

Hansson came back from the house, where he had been talking with Salomonsson.

“We should do what they do in the States,” he said. “We should have menthol to smear under our noses. Damn, the smell in there. Old men shouldn’t be allowed to outlive their wives.”

“Get one of the ambulance crew to ask him how he’s feeling,” said Wallander. “He must be suffering from shock.”

Martinsson went to deliver the message. Peter Edler took off his helmet and stood next to Wallander.

“It’s nearly out,” he said. “But I’ll leave a truck here tonight.”

“When can we go out in the field?” asked Wallander.

“Within an hour. The smoke will hang around for a while yet. But the field has already started to cool off.”

Wallander took Peter Edler aside.

“What am I going to see?” he asked. “She poured a five-litre container of petrol over herself. And the way everything exploded around her, she must have already poured more on the ground.”

“It won’t be pretty,” Edler replied candidly. “There won’t be a lot left.”

Wallander said nothing. He turned to Hansson.

“No matter how we look at it, we know that it was suicide,” said Hansson. “We have the best witness we can get: a policeman.”

“What did Salomonsson say?”

“That he’d never seen her before she appeared at 5 a.m. this morning. There’s no reason to think he’s not telling the truth.”

“So we don’t know who she is,” said Wallander, “and we don’t know what she was running from either.”

Hansson looked at him in surprise.

“Why should she be running from something?” he asked.

“She was frightened,” said Wallander. “She was hiding. And when a policeman arrived she set herself on fire.”

“We don’t know what she was thinking,” said Hansson. “You may be imagining that she was frightened.”

“No,” said Wallander. “I’ve seen enough fear in my time to know what it looks like.”

One of the ambulance crew came walking towards them.

“We’re taking the old boy with us to the hospital,” he said. “He looks in pretty bad shape.”

Wallander nodded.

Soon the forensic team arrived. Wallander tried to point out where in the smoke the body might be located.

“Maybe you should go home,” said Höglund. “You’ve seen enough this evening.”

“No,” said Wallander. “I’ll stay.”

Eventually the smoke had cleared, and Peter Edler said they could start their examination. Even though the summer evening was still light, Wallander had ordered floodlights to be brought in.

“There might be something out there apart from a body,” said Wallander. “Watch your step, and everyone who doesn’t have work to do out there should stay back.”

He realised then that he really didn’t want to do what had to be done. He would far rather have driven away and left the responsibility to the others. He walked out into the field alone. The others watched. He was afraid of what he would see, afraid that the knot he had in his stomach would burst.

He reached her. Her arms had stiffened in the upstretched motion he had seen her make before she died, surrounded by the raging flames. Her hair and face, along with her clothes, were burned off. All that was left was a blackened body that still radiated terror and desolation. Wallander turned around and walked back across the charred ground. For a moment he was afraid he was going to faint.

The forensic technicians started to work in the harsh glare of the floodlights, where moths swarmed. Hansson had opened Salomonsson’s kitchen window to drive out the smell. They pulled out the chairs and sat around the kitchen table. At Höglund’s suggestion they made coffee on Salomonsson’s ancient stove.

“All he has is ground coffee,” she said after searching through the drawers and cupboards. “Is that all right?”

“That’s fine,” said Wallander. “Just as long as it’s strong.”

Hanging on the wall beside the ancient cupboards with sliding doors was an old-fashioned clock. Wallander noticed that it had stopped. He had seen a clock like that once before, at Baiba’s flat in Riga, and it too had had a pair of immobile hands. As though they were trying to ward off events that had not yet happened by stopping time, he thought. Baiba’s husband was killed execution-style on a frozen night in Riga’s harbour. A lone girl appears as if shipwrecked in a sea of rape and takes her life by inflicting the worst pain imaginable.

She had set herself on fire as though she were her own enemy, he thought. It wasn’t him, the policeman with the waving arms, she had wanted to escape. It was herself.

He was jolted out of his reverie by the silence around the table. They were looking at him and waiting for him to take the initiative. Through the window he could see the technicians moving slowly about in the glare of the floodlights. A camera flash went off, then another.

“Did somebody call for the hearse?” asked Hansson.

For Wallander it was as if someone had struck him with a sledgehammer. The simple, matter-of-fact question from Hansson brought him back to painful reality.

The images flickered inside his head. He imagined driving through the beautiful Swedish summertime, Barbara Hendricks’s voice strong and clear. Then a girl skitters away like a frightened animal in the field of tall rape. The catastrophe strikes. Something happens that shouldn’t. The hearse on its way to carry off the summer itself.

“Prytz knows what to do,” said Martinsson, and Wallander recognised the ambulance driver whose name he’d forgotten earlier.

He knew he had to say something.