This, the third entry in Henning Mankell's series featuring Swedish Inspector Kurt Wallander, appeared in 1993, and is a very ambitious effort--in the end, perhaps overly so. The story starts simply enough with the murder of a real estate agent who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it quickly spins into a major international conspiracy involving a plot by die-hard South African whites to assassinate Nelson Mandela, shortly after he was released from prison.
The plotters have recruited a black assassin to murder Mandela, hoping to spark a race war that will enable the whites to continue to control the country. They've recruited a former KGB agent to train the assassin and have concluded for some reason that the training would best be done secretly in Sweden, which is how Wallander's murder investigation becomes mixed up with the conspiracy.
The story is told from several different points of view and jumps back and forth from Sweden to South Africa. It's quite a long and complicated book with a fairly large cast of characters. In many ways it's a very intriguing story, somewhat along the lines of The Day of the Jackal. But it drags on a bit too long, and it's hard for Mankell to maintain the suspense throughout the book.
I'm rating this three stars rather than four because over the course of the story, Kurt Wallander occasionally takes actions that make no sense. The maverick cop who follows his own trail and sometimes takes shortcuts while ignoring the orders of his superiors is a staple of crime fiction, and most of us love these characters, at least as long as what they are doing seems logical. In these case though, on at least a couple of occasions, Wallander does things that seem totally illogical and which leave the reader, as well as his colleagues, wondering if he might be having some sort of mental breakdown.
Still, in all, I enjoyed the story and I'm looking forward to the next installment.