Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sjöwall, Maj and Wahlöö, Per (The Laughing Policeman)

I guess long ago they didn't call these mystery novels or crime stories, they called them police procedurals. Or at least they did for stories like those written by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, set in Stockholm and starring Martin Beck, police detective.

For some people, their stories may seem plodding because they detail the work performed by the police while solving the crime. Every bit of detail. But if you read closely, you find humor, different and engaging personalities and above all, their description of how the world has been changing. I like how Sjöwall put it, that their intent was to "use the crime novel as a scalpel cutting open the belly of the ideologically pauperized and morally debatable so-called welfare state of the bourgeois type." A chance to describe their feelings about Sweden, or any major socialized society for that matter.

This is my third of their decalogue, and I'm not reading them in order. I'm also not terribly worried about that, for while the personalities age and change, each story stands on its own. I think their first, Roseanna, is still my favorite but this one grabs you from the get-go and doesn't let off until the final line. As with all their novels, the last line is well worth reaching.

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