It shows Henning Mankell at the height of his powers, handling a broad historical canvas and pressing international issues with his exceptional gifts for insight and chilling suspense.
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By Colin on 05-06-2011
Ambitious but flawed
The Man from Beijing opens with a compelling and gruesome scenario. This becomes the axis around which the narrative will rotate taking the listener all over the planet. Whilst the political, historical and social issues explored are ambitious and intriguing it’s the seemingly bewildering naiveté of the central character, Judge Bergitta Roslin, that distracts and dilutes an ambitious detective/political drama.
Weaving through the narrative an analysis of contemporary Chinese political and economic ambitions coupled with insights into what is still an inscrutable culture is deeply interesting.
Narrators Anna Bentnick’s performance is competent (her pronunciation of Swedish and English words and names is impressive) however she lacks authentic emotion leaving some dramatic and violent scenes oddly antiseptic.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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By Elinor Dashwood on 02-05-2011
I usually love Henning Mankell, but this might be one book too many.
In fairness, I got the idea from the blurb and his previous work that this would be a detective story. If that's why you're thinking of buying it, then think twice, because only a very short part of the book deals with the murders.
Hours and hours of it are dedicated to Chinese peasants starving in China and being forced to work on the US railways in the 19th century, then even more hours are spent on Chinese politics - past and present.
The view presented of Zimbabwe is so biased that it makes me wonder whether the portrayal of China (about which I know very little) is accurate either. Mugabe is presented as a benign, misunderstood civilised schoolmaster (!) and, irritatingly, read with a Jamaican accent. [Note to narrator - not all black people speak the same way. Just saying...]
I haven't finished it yet, and live in hopes that things will pick up, but just be aware that it's slow-going, and not a police-procedural or detective story.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
By Owen on 28-06-2011
Sweden called: they'd like their story back.
From the start, this felt like it was going to be a great story: Mysterious murders, remote locations, and no apparent reason for it all. Then, somewhere around Chapter 10, one of the main characters catches a plane to China, and, it seems, the author forgets he has a story to tell. Hour after hour I waited for the story to pick up back in Sweden, but instead it's like someone made a mistake in the binding and stapled in a history of 19th century China and a political sketch of Zimbabwe that's so biased it becomes funny. I'm sure there was a thread to pick up relating to the murders back in Sweden, but the story unravels and fades into the distance long before we get to it. In the end, I didn't care.
A very disappointing book. I, like the author I feel, lost interest somewhere in China.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful