Book Review: The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell (1992)

The Dogs of Riga is a crime novel by Swedish author Henning Mankell, and it is the second book in his Kurt Wallander series. The book is set in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, in the late 1990s, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The novel begins by discovering two dead bodies on a beach near Skane, Sweden. The victims are two Latvian criminals who were involved in a gun-running operation. Inspector Kurt Wallander, who is in charge of the investigation, soon discovers that the weapons they were smuggling came from Latvia. He is then sent to Riga, along with two other Swedish police officers, to work with the Latvian police and investigate the weapons’ origins.

Once they arrive in Riga, Wallander and his colleagues encounter a corrupt and dysfunctional police force, as well as a city that is struggling to come to terms with the new realities of post-Soviet life. As they investigate the case, they become embroiled in a web of corruption, politics, and organized crime. Wallander also becomes romantically involved with Baiba Liepa, a young Latvian woman who is working as a translator for the Swedish police.

As the investigation continues, Wallander and his team uncover a plot by a powerful Latvian politician to sell weapons to the highest bidder, including terrorists and war criminals. The politician and his associates are ultimately brought to justice, but not before Wallander and Baiba are kidnapped and held captive in a remote farmhouse.

The Dogs of Riga is a gripping and atmospheric thriller that explores the dark underbelly of post-Soviet Latvia, and it is also a powerful meditation on the themes of identity, trust, and betrayal.

The Dogs of Riga is a gripping and atmospheric crime novel that is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Henning Mankell’s writing is evocative and immersive, capturing the atmosphere of post-Soviet Latvia and the complexities of its society and politics.

The character of Kurt Wallander is a fascinating one, and Mankell does an excellent job of portraying him as a flawed but determined investigator who is willing to go to great lengths to solve a case. Wallander’s growing relationship with Baiba Liepa is also well-handled, adding a layer of emotional depth to the story.

The plot is intricately woven, with twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very end. The themes of corruption, politics, and organized crime are explored with nuance and sensitivity, highlighting the challenges that face societies in transition.

The Dogs of Riga is an excellent crime novel that is both thrilling and thought-provoking. It is a must-read for fans of the genre and for anyone interested in the complexities of post-Soviet Europe.

I really liked how The Dogs of Riga explores Sweden’s regional politics in the 1990s, which is a nice continuation of themes brought up in Faceless Killers, but it’s not necessary to read the first. I also really enjoy Kurt Wallander’s growth as an investigator in this novel. His ill-fated love affair with Baiba Liepa feels real and sorrowful, and loving. It’s a great second installment in the Kurt Wallander series and I enthusiastically recommend The Dogs of Riga. You can get a copy from Amazon here.


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