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Nobody deserves to die.
Kurt Wallander, Sidetracked

Swedish author Henning Mankell's popular series of crime novels follow Kurt Wallander, a middle-aged, diabetic inspector who is often up against both criminals and his own demons. In the novels Mankell explores social and political issues affecting modern-day Sweden, as well as providing the reader with plenty of mystery and suspense.

The novels became the basis of several film and TV adaptations: a film series starring Rolf Lassgård as the titular character, a Swedish television series starring Krister Henriksson, and most recently an English-language adaptation starring Kenneth Branagh.

The English adaptation is unusual in its use of Translation Convention. Filmed in Ystad, the Swedish setting of the novels, it renders all spoken dialogue into English (complete with idioms like "done time"), but keeps all on-screen written text in Swedish (with the exception of the screen of Wallander's phone on occasions).

This series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Wallander's daughter Linda, who choses to join the police like her father.
    • Wallander's colleague Ann-Britt Höglund.
    • Isabelle Melin in the Swedish series.
  • Asshole Victim: Pretty frequently. Pretty much all of the victims in The Fifth Woman, for example, were themselves horrible criminals who had been Karma Houdinis up to that point. Many of the victims in Sidetracked fall under this trope as well.
  • Ate His Gun: Happens in the Swedish episode The Secret.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some of the written Swedish in the British version. For example, when Wallander checks his inbox, viewers are treated to a bunch of annoying emails from Tom Hiddleston's character Magnus Martinsson, with headlines like "Vem stängde inte av kaffebryggaren?" ("Who left the coffee maker on?") and "Glöm inte möte med Martinsson!" ("Don't forget meeting with Martinsson!").
    • It's worth pointing out that the Swedish Wallander is fluent in English and uses it on a few occasions.
  • Bury Your Gays: Svedberg in One Step Behind ends being this, killed by one of the men he was involved with, who ended up having been a mass murderer who preyed on happy people. He killed Svedberg because he was too close to discovering his secret. Averted with the others in the novel.
  • Butt Monkey: Wallander can't even go out to eat without the universe abusing him. In one episode, Nyberg forgets his wallet and Kurt's card is out of date, so they come off looking like bums and get yelled at by an angry waitress.
    • He survives an assassination attempt because he trips over a rug.
    • In the Swedish films starring Krister Henriksson, Officer Svartman is undoubtedly also a Butt Monkey. He gets shot at, beaten by thugs, has something horrendous done to a sensitive part of his body and has his car shot to pieces by mooks.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Nyberg.
  • Defective Detective: Wallander, who looks like he's about to cry in every scene, is divorced, has a rough relationship with his daughter, and has to deal daily with violence and the other darker aspects of life.
  • Deus Angst Machina: While True Art Is Angsty, this series could possibly be called "Wallander's Horrible Life".
  • Dirty Communists: Deconstructed. The second volume, The Dogs of Riga, mostly takes place in the then-totalitarian state of Latvia, which was in the process of falling apart in the time frame of the series (it had fallen apart the year before the novel was written, although it wasn't entirely clear what would be happening to the country at that point). It is quite clear that Mankell, while sympathetic to the ideals communism was avowedly intended to serve, strongly detests the Soviet system. Most of the sympathetic characters in the novel at some point criticise the Soviet system for failing to uphold those ideals, and the disparity between incomes of corrupt "public servants" and the rest of the country is a rather notable theme of the book (not to mention the complete lack of any semblance of civil liberties).
  • Disappeared Dad: Erik Westin in Before The Frost, who left his daughter Anna when she was quite young. Unfortunately he turns up again.
    • This could also apply to Wallander, who wasn't around enough when his daughter was growing up.
  • Driven to Suicide: Happens to Stefan in the Swedish episode The Secret.
  • Fair Cop: Ann-Britt Höglund.
    • Linda Wallander as played by Johanna Sällström probably counts as this.
    • Isabelle Melin from season two of the Swedish films.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: In the novels, Wallander spends years yearning for a pet dog and a house by the sea. In The Troubled Man, the final book in the series, he finally gets his wish.
    • The second season of the Swedish series starring Krister Henriksson also shows Wallander with his pet labrador, Jussi, who he clearly adores.
  • Heroic BSOD: In The White Lioness Wallander shoots and kills a Russian assassin and suffers this as a consequence. It's so bad that for a long time he considers quitting the police force, until he gets drawn in to the events of The Man Who Smiled and changes his mind.
  • The Inspector: Wallander.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Happens in the Mastermind film in the first season of the Swedish films. The Big Bad does it to keep tabs on the investigation and gather information on how he can further harm Wallander and Martinsson.
  • Norse by Norsewest: Averted in the Branagh version -- even the Fair Cop has black hair. Though Magnus and Wallander both have light hair and eyes, brunettes abound. The Swedish productions avert this, of course, being... Swedish productions.
  • Red Shirt: Pontus from the Henriksson films, if only through his lack of fear of danger...
  • Running Gag: in the Swedish version, Wallander never seems to finish his physical checkup.
  • Scenery Porn: In all TV and film adaptations. Skåne is an exceptionally beautiful place, so you can't blame them really.
  • Serial Killer Killer: A rare female example in The Fifth Woman.
  • Sounding It Out: Wallander reads out an email that we see written in Swedish in English for the audience's benefit
  • Translation Convention: The English-language Branagh version anglicized several place names, for instance, Ystad's pronunciation is altered (from "ee-stad" to "eah-stad"). Wallander's name is pronounced "Wall-and-er", while the Swedish pronunciation is "Val-and-air".
    • One notable case in "Firewall" in which the on-screen status data of a computer specialist is in English, but it's entirely plausible for someone in a country where English is a second language of most of the population to do that. Combined with Swedish not always being a good option when it comes to computer programs (due to bad or nonexistent translations), it might not have been this trope, but exactly what it looked like: English.
  • Tender Tears: Count it up in the Branagh adaptation, and Wallander cries in literally four out of the six episodes that have been produced. There's a borderline case of shining eyes in 2x01, which could make it five out of six. But it's because he's so empathetic; he almost never cries for himself.
    • In the novels Wallander doesn't cry as often, but in Before The Frost Linda notes the tears in his eyes when he hears about the death of an old friend.
    • In the Swedish episode The Secret Wallander breaks down and cries when he realises that Stefan had committed suicide because he had been abused as a child and that he could have helped, but chose not to listen to him.
  • Trauma Conga Line: If Wallander ever felt real happiness, the world would probably end or something.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Wallander is impressed by Harderberg's philanthropic work for impoverished children in Africa. He clearly feels that the man is a ray of goodness in an all-too-grim world. He even smiles a bit! And then it turns out Harderberg's foundation is a front for black market organ dealing, and he's probably had some of those adorable kids in the photos slaughtered for parts. Yeah.
  • You Look Familiar: A Swedish nationalist that Wallander shoots dead is played by Fredrik Gunnarsson, who is in the Swedish version as Officer Svartmann!
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