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Mankell, best known for his Kurt Wallander series, shows us another dimension of his considerable talent. In October 1914, with World War I just beginning, Sweden's neutrality is not necessarily assured. Naval commander and hydrographic surveyor Lars Tobiasson-Svartman has a secret mission: to take new depth soundings in the Stockholm archipelago, part of a search for faster passages and safe havens for Swedish ships. He is a man obsessed with exactitude, yet he's never taken his own measure--he hides a deep, uncharted abyss in his soul. His love for his wife, in particular, has never been tested. When he meets a hardy, emotionally wounded woman living on a desolate, rocky island, his self-discipline unravels. He gropes blindly toward self-knowledge, leaving wreckage in his wake. As a portrait of alienation from the self, this recalls Camus' Stranger; as a portrait of strong women societally subordinate to blinkered men, it recalls Ibsen's Doll's House. If Mankell sometimes writes about his protagonist's emotional journey too plainly, this grim novel still casts a remarkably powerful spell. Keir Graff