Her father worked flat out all summer, dealing with bank and post-office robberies in the Ystad area. From time to time Linda would hear about one case, which sounded like a series of well-planned attacks. Once her father had gone to bed, Linda would often sneak a look at his notebook and the case file he brought home. But whenever she asked him about the case directly he would avoid answering. She wasn't a police officer yet. Her questions would have to go unanswered until September.
The days went by. In the middle of one afternoon in August her father came home and said that the estate agent had called about a property near Mossbystrand. Would she like to come and see it with him? She called to postpone a rendezvous she had arranged with Zeba, then they got into her father's Peugeot and drove west. The sea was grey. Autumn was in the offing.
The windows were boarded up, one of the drainpipes stuck out at an angle
from the gutter, and several roof shingles were missing. The house stood
on a hill with a sweeping view of the ocean, but there was something
bleak and dismal about it. This is not a place where my father could
find peace, Linda thought. Here he'll be at the mercy of his inner
demons. But what are they, anyway? She began to list the chief sources
of concern in his life, ordering them in her mind: first there was
loneliness, then the creeping tendency to obesity and the stiffness in
his joints. And beyond these? She put the question aside for the moment
and joined her father as he inspected the outside of the house. The wind
blew slowly, almost thoughtfully, in some nearby beech trees. The sea
lay far below them. Linda squinted and spotted a ship on the horizon.
Kurt Wallander looked at his daughter.
"You look like me when you squint like that," he said.
They kept walking and behind the house came across the rotting skeleton of a leather sofa. A field vole jumped from the rusting springs. Wallander looked around and shook his head.
"Remind me why I want to move to the country."
"I have no idea. Why do you want to move to the country?"
"I've always dreamed of being able to roll out of bed and walk outside to take my morning piss, if you'll pardon my language."
She looked at him with amusement. "Is that it?"
"Do I need a better reason than that? Come on, let's go."
"Let's walk round the house one more time."
This time she looked more closely at the place, as if she were the prospective buyer and her father the agent. She sniffed around like an animal.
"Four hundred thousand."
She raised her eyebrows.
"That's what it says," he said.
"Do you have that much money?"
"No, but the bank has pre-approved my loan. I'm a trusted customer, a policeman who has always been as good as his word. I think I'm even disappointed I don't like this place. An abandoned house is as depressing as a lonely person."
They drove away. Linda read a sign by the side of the road: Mossbystrand. He glanced at her.
Excerpted from Before the Frost by Henning Mankell Copyright © 2006 by Henning Mankell. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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