18 December 2005

Cop Killer, by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

I read some of the "Martin Beck" series several years ago, but I don't remember them well. This book is, as well as I do recall, a good example of the series. I found it throughly enjoyable. The reading list from Donald Knuth cited earlier in this journal reminded me of them, so I took this novel and another, The Terrorists, out of the library.

Cop Killer is a delightful read, and a short one. Sjöwall and Wahlöö were apparently believers in "leave them asking for more".

In it Martin Beck, Chief Inspector for the Swedish National Homicide Squad, is summoned to the little town of Ånderslov, near Malmo because a woman has disappeared. Foul play is suspected, but hasn't yet been confirmed.

As Beck works on this mystery, the incident that gives the book its title occurs in Ljunghausen. A fugitive from the scene of that crime is coincidentally involved in Beck's mystery in Ånderslov, and leads Beck's associate, Lennart Kollberg, to a solution of the original crime.

The book carries a strong flavor of tired cynicism, and despair with the state of society in 1970s Sweden. Many comments are made about the social damage caused by the welfare state, and a general attitude of disgust with the National Police force and its bureaucracy pervades the book.

I expect that the best known novel in this series is The Laughing Policeman, as it was made into a movie. I'll have to read, or re-read, that one as well

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