Swedish author Mankell writes a great contemporary crime novel series starring Kurt Wallender, but this epic is not one of them. This stand-alone book about Hanna Renstrom, sent away from her marginal existence on the edge of a Swedish forest by her own mother, takes the reader on a journey to East Africa. In 1904, the country was brutally controlled by the Portuguese, its tiny white minority living atop a cauldron of hate and resentment, hating the natives as they silently, almost subconsciously, fear them. How does Hanna get there? What happens when she regains consciousness, bleeding, in a brothel? No spoilers, you know how I hate them. If you have a friend who enjoys fascinating fiction with a literary-style twist, this could be the perfect present. It's a 4.5. Translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson.

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