Mankell, who had been suffering from cancer for more than 18 months, “passed away peacefully” in the western Swedish city of Gothenburg on Sunday night, publishing house Leopard said on its website.
His dozen novels about Swedish detective Kurt Wallander have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 40 different languages.
“Henning Mankell was one of the great Swedish writers, loved by readers here at home and around the world,” said his publishers on Monday.
Swedish author Henning Mankell. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT
His books about Wallander, the dour detective based in the southern town of Ystad, have also been turned into TV series in Swedish as well as in English, played by actor Kenneth Branagh in the BBC version.
Wallander also wrote numerous plays and children's books. In 1996, he was awarded the Astrid Lindgren Prize for excellence in children's writing.
In recent years, Mankell also made headlines as an activist and campaigner who was active in the Free Gaza movement.
The author's friend and colleague Dan Israel, at Leopard, told the Expressen tabloid on Monday that Sweden had lost “one of its greatest Swedish authors” of all time.
“His work was so infinitely greater than just being a crime writer. He wrote plays, debate books, everything. He was always driven by the same burning passion to give people the tools to understand, first and foremost, their reality,” he said.
His comments were echoed by many across Sweden and the rest of the world as tributes came pouring in for the Swedish novellist and playwright.
— Alice Christian (@CrimeAmbitions) October 5, 2015
— M. William Phelps (@MWilliamPhelps) October 5, 2015
“It feels today as if it's my little brother who has passed away. I would like to hug him,” Krister Henriksson, who starred as 'Kurt Wallander' in 32 of the Swedish movies made about the detective, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.
Henning Mankell, left, and Krister Henriksson as 'Kurt Wallander'. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
Mankell first revealed he had cancer a year and a half ago , saying it was discovered when he underwent treatment for a slipped disc.
“A few days later… I had it in black and white: it was serious. I had one tumour in the back of my neck and one in my left lung. The cancer could also have spread to other parts of my body,” he wrote at the time.
He was supposed to have made an appearance at Gothenburg's annual literature conference only last month, but had to cancel because of his illness.
In an interview with regional newspaper Göteborgs-Posten in late September, he said his years in Moçambique, where he lived for many years, had taught him to come to terms with the end of life.
“In Western culture we have a tendency to place death beyond life, while in Africa you still see death as the only tangible part of life,” said the writer.
Mankell leaves a widow Eva Bergman, 70, the daughter of Swedish cinema great Ingmar Bergman, and his son Jon.