To begin with, I really liked The Hundred-Year-Old Man…. I’m a fan of a number of authors in the current wave of Swedish Crime, particularly Henning Mankell’s Wallander series, and from the beginning this book read like an amusing satire of this genre. It had most of the recognisable tropes: an atypical protagonist (although Allan Karlsson, the titular centenarian is certainly no Lisbeth Salander), racist Biker Gangs, corpses ending up in obscure African countries, and police following seemingly incomprehensible trails, misinterpreting vital information while having to deal with obstructive central bureaucracy and the media. There were even interesting and entertaining flashbacks to Allan’s early life.
Then, about a quarter of the way through the book, it started to get silly.
If you think about Forrest Gump, and the way he casually and obliviously blunders into all the major events of the 1960s and 70s, but still manages to be heart warming because the story telling is so innocent. The Hundred-Year-Old Man… is the exact opposite. It’s so smugly self-aware that as Allan blunders from contrived meeting to contrived meeting, getting by on little more than his fondness for alcohol and vague smile, I just wanted to scream at him. The ‘present day’ story also begins to become a little incredible before long, as each and every person he encounters, regardless of whether they had been trying to kill him or arrest him, magically falling in love with his charm and agreeing to follow him to the ends of the earth.
Which would have been fine if it was only occasionally, but it happened so frequently, it got both annoying and unbelievable before the book was even half over.