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A Treacherous Paradise    by Henning Mankell order for
Treacherous Paradise
by Henning Mankell
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

While giving Kurt Wallander a bit of a rest, Swedish author Henning Mankell has presented his fans with A Treacherous Paradise, the story of an unusual woman who appeared on the east coast of Africa in 1902 and quietly disappeared in 1905.

Mankell researched tax records for this woman to prove that she truly existed and attempted to discover more about her. She intrigued him. When no other real evidence of her existence was revealed, writer that he is, he created a personality for her and gave her an unusual and titillating but plausible life. A Treacherous Paradise is the result. As always, Mankell produces writing at its best.

Hanna Renstrom, leaving Sweden behind her at the behest of her mother (who wanted more for Hanna than she felt Sweden could give her) sails for Australia, paying her way by cooking for the crew of the ship. She marries Lars Lundmark in a shipboard ceremony only to have him succumb to a deadly fever after two months. She jumps ship at an African port, no longer able to stay aboard without her husband. Devastated by his death, she stumbles onto what she believes to be a hotel. They take her in and care for her as she is very ill. Later she learns that it is a brothel.

And there her story takes off. She marries again, the owner of the brothel. He succumbs not long after. She is left as his heir a chimpanzee is a small part of his very large estate. I will let you discover the rest of the story for yourself. It is intriguing, speculative, leaving readers with an awe for this unusual woman. Mankell's characterizations bring each player to life. And the depictions of life in East Africa at that time make the reader glad to be in the here and now. Life is never easy, but those lives were unbearably hard. A Treacherous Paradise is another fine book by a master.

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