Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Fire Engine That Disappeared by Sjowall and Wahloo

The Fire Engine That Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahloo
First published in Swedish as Brandbilen som försvann in Sweden by Norstedts Forlag in 1969. English language translation by Joan Tate published in 1970.

I am blogging this review today to coincide with my WorldReads from Sweden post over on my Stephanie Jane blog.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gunvald Larsson sits carefully observing the dingy Stockholm apartment of a man under police surveillance. He looks at his watch: nine minutes past eleven in the evening. He yawns, slapping his arms to keep warm. At the same moment the house explodes, killing at least three people. Chief Inspector Martin Beck and his men don't suspect arson or murder until they discover a peculiar circumstance and a link is established between the explosion and a suicide committed that same day, in which the dead man left a note consisting of just two words: Martin Beck.

The Fire Engine That Disappeared is the fifth of the ten 'Martin Beck' mysteries by Swedish authors Sjowall and Wahloo. I expect that I shall read all ten in time as, at half way through, their style is still sharp with an excellent plot line and there's no sign yet of resorting to dull formula. Martin Beck himself is a fairly minor character in The Fire Engine That Disappeared. Instead, the lead is taken by Gunvald Larsson, an unlikeable man who manages to be a fascinating character to read about.

The unfolding of the mystery of a fatal housefire in Stockholm takes months to be completed which is far more believable than the rushed timelines of many current thriller novels. Technology is practically non-existent - landline telephones being about as good as it gets - and practically everyone smokes and drinks a lot. Sjowall and Wahloo manage to discreetly weave in some pretty savage comments on the social situation in Sweden in the late 1960s. It would seem they weren't impressed and detail like this adds considerably to the realism of their novel.

I didn't manage to work out whodunnit before the denouement but the unravelling is cleverly presented and has a string of satisfying 'aha' moments.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sjowall and Wahloo / Crime fiction / Books from Sweden

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