By Jeff Giles
Updated March 30, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

The ominous waves on the cover of Depths are a dead giveaway that Henning Mankell’s title doesn’t refer to the depths of, say, human kindness. It’s 1914. A dull Swedish naval officer named Lars is measuring underwater channels to ensure safe passage for warships. He comes upon a desolate isle inhabited only by a young widow, grown feral in her solitude. Soon, he’s rowing out daily for a metaphysical booty call, claiming he’s a widower with a tragic past. The novel is slow and stolid early on — maybe it’s Laurie Thompson’s translation, or maybe Swedes just like stuff that way — but it achieves a stark power as the lies and crimes of passion boomerang around. B+

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