Thanks to Norm alias Uriah Robinson of Crime Scraps, I have just finished Roseanna, the first of the Martin Beck series of books by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, written in 1965. The book is readable and compelling. A murdered girl's body is dredged up from a canal at the start of the book. Over the ensuing year or more, policeman Martin Beck and his colleagues tenaciously investigate until the girl's identity, and then that of her killer, are found. The book is spare and focused, and utterly compelling in an unglamorous, uncompromising way.

I've read a great deal of crime fiction in my time, and although the "mystery" element is almost absent in this book, I found it completely absorbing. Beck is unromantic but realistic, both in his personal/family life and in his work. It is also educational to be reminded what it was like for us before straightforward international phone calls, faxing, emailing and the internet.

Highly recommended — and as Norm predicted, I'll now have to read the next nine books in the series (one of which, The Locked Room, is reviewed at Crime Scraps). Norm has also written a succinct analysis of all ten books here.

Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum and Lisa Marklund are all superb present-day Swedish crime-fiction authors who write in the tradition established by Sjowall and Wahloo — plot-driven books that convey plenty of sociopolitical comment along the way. For me, the combination of police procedural with "placeism" — the details of everyday life that create an authentic and true voice  — is what makes reading all these authors such a rewarding experience.

The edition of Roseanna I read is published by Harper Perennial. This edition has an excellent introduction by Henning Mankell (author of the Wallender series) about his love of the Sjowall/Wahloo books; and at the end are interviews with the authors and another analysis of the books, as well as a list of all the books in the series, all for £6.99. I was very impressed and wish that one found these additional items in books more often, to provide context for interested readers.

Originally posted at Petrona on 21 November 2006

This entry was posted in Books, Classic, Crime fiction, Europe, Police procedural, Series, Social comment, Sweden, Translated and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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