For Kurt Wallander's second appearance Henning Mankell shifted much of the action away from Sweden, to newly-post Soviet Latvia.
It is February 12, 1991.
Two smugglers chance upon two dead men, wearing suits, in a liferaft adrift on the Baltic. Conscientiously, they start to tow it to port, but fearing awkward questions, cut the line, and it comes ashore at Mossby Strand, near Ystad. The ensuing investigation feels like an inconvenience to the hard-pressed police officers - do they really need to spend so much time discovering the fate of two unknown foreigners (probably Russian or Eastern European, from their non-Swedish dental work)?
A Latvian connection emerges and Wallander travels to Riga, first to tie up some loose ends, then on a clandestine, unsanctioned solo mission that will uncover some of unpleasant corruption that still permeates life in a country in the time of great transition.
In plot terms, this isn't particularly compelling. Wallander is taken away from the team dynmaics that had begun to emerge in his debut appearance, Faceless Killers, and he is as much sucked along by events as propelled by his skills of detection.
Rereading Dogs of Riga is fascinating in that it sketches in much of the background that will underpin the the rest fo the series. You can almost see Henning Mankell drawing his charcaters, locating the Wallander he will somehow eventually come to almost dislike (The Troubled Man).
Importantly, the Latvian connection allows Mankell to muse, somewhat heavy handedly in places, on his disillusionment with Sweden.
Early on, we learn that one of the murderers from Faceless Killers has escaped from jail. Tricked by a woman carrying forged documents, prison officers allow him out to a funeral; they overpower the accompnaying guard, and drive to Kastrup airport in the prison commissioner's car.
"Like the adverts say, Sweden is fantastic," Bjork said. "It makes me sick."
Wallander is even more distressed than his boss. "What's the point? Why do we bust ourselves to catch criminals if all the prison service does is let them go again?"
The shadow of Wallander's dead mentor, Rydberg hangs (too?) heavily over his thinking.
He and Rydberg had often discussed how Sweden, a country that was changing rapidly, becoming unfamiliar and uncertain, needed a new kind of police officer.
They were living at a time characterised by a sort of criminality that nobody had experienced before.
This bleak analysis, sufficiently powerful to push Wallander towads posting his application to beome a security guard for Trelleborg Rubber Company, is explored more deeply when, in Riga, he meets Major Karlis Liepa.
The thoughtful Liepa talks of links between the KGB and criminals: "The shadow of Stalin has always hovered over the heads of people like them."
The same was true of Sweden, was Wallander's immediate reaction. We might not be able to refer to such a monster in our recent history, but a complicated network of interdependent individuals is not the exclusive preserve of a totalitarian state.
For an English reader, this ability to equate liberal Sweden with the sins of Stalin seems almost self-indulgent, but reflects a real discomfort around the the true nature of Swedish post-War neutrality, that appears in so many novels (Leif GW Persson's Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End and Mankell's own Troubled Man among them).
Even Wallander thinks Liepa takes it too far when he observes:
"In your country I see an abundance of material things. It seems to be unlimited. But there is a similarity. Both are poor. You see, poverty has different faces. We lack the abundance that you have, and we don't have the freedom of choice. In your country I detect a kind of poverty, which is that you do not have to fight for your survival. For me the struggle has a religious dimension and I wouldn't want to exchange that for your abundance."
In a reply that sets the tinme for the rest of the Wallander series, he counters:
"You're wrong. There's a struggle going on in this country, too. A lot of people here are excluded - was that the right word? - from the abundance you describe. Nobody starves to death, it is true, but you are wrong if you think we don't have to fight."
- The Dogs of Riga is translated by Laurie Thompson