STOCKHOLM -- Henning Mankell, the internationally renowned Swedish crime writer whose books about the gloomy, soul-searching police inspector Kurt Wallander enticed readers around the world, died Oct. 5, his publisher said. He was 67.

The hesitant figurehead of Scandinavian crime fiction, who last year revealed he had cancer, died in his sleep in the southwestern city of Goteborg, his publisher, Leopard, said in a statement on its website.

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Mankell wrote about 50 novels and numerous plays, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide.

Mankell's Wallander series helped define the genre that became known as Nordic noir. Set in the bleak landscapes of southern Sweden, the series drew on the dark, morally complex moods of its main protagonist and was infused with social commentary.

Mankell was deeply engaged in social and political issues. Since the mid-1980s he had divided time between Sweden and Mozambique, where he helped build a village for orphaned children to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. He was among activists who were attacked and arrested by Israeli forces as they tried to sail to the Gaza strip with humanitarian supplies in June 2010.

The first Wallander novel, "Faceless Killers," was published in 1991 and the series was made complete in 2009 with the 10th novel, "The Troubled Man." The books have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold over 30 million copies worldwide. They have been adapted into films and TV series in Sweden and a popular BBC series, starring Kenneth Branagh.

Mankell's international success paved the way for other Scandinavian authors abroad, including Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo.-- AP