With the extra hour gained this Sunday by turning the clocks back, I felt no guilt staying up late last night finishing Henning Mankell's latest mystery thriller, Kennedy's Brain. This is a stand-alone novel, but every bit as captivating as his marvellous Wallender books. Louise, an archeologist working in Greece, comes to Stockholm to visit her adult son Henrik, only to discover him lying dead in his bed. The police think it's a case of suicide but she's convinced that it was murder and sets out to prove it. Along the way she has to travel to Australia to find Aron (her disappeared ex and Henrik's father), investigate why her son had an apartment in Barcelona that she never knew about, why he left his landlady an envelope containing the photo of an African woman and an address in Mozambique, and in particular, why he has numerous files about the conspiracies surrounding the disappearance of John F. Kennedy's brain following the post-mortem done after the assassination.
This novel is a whirlwind trip around the world from the dark forests of Sweden where Louise's father creates sculptural facical carvings in living trees, to the heat and poverty of AIDS stricken Africa and a mysterious mission set up to help the dying. Along the way Mankell unrelentingly explores the nature of death and grief and its various physical, emotional and artistic manifestations. Louise's profession forces her to constantly speculate on the secrets of the distant and ancient dead; how will she react to the immediacy of death all around her, both in her personal life and what she encounters in Africa? It's this intensely human questioning that imbues a wonderful suspense thriller with deeper philosophical and more horrific contemporary themes, utterly satisifying to the reader. One to recommend to fans of John Le Carre, particularly The Constant Gardener.