Friday, 21 September 2018

The Locked Room by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo


The Locked Room by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
First published in Swedish as Det slutna rummet in Sweden in 1972. English language translation by Joan Tate published in the UK by Pantheon in 1973.

My 1970s read for my 2018-19 Decade Challenge

How I got this book:
Bought at a charity book fair

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones
Amazon US / Amazon UK

The eighth classic instalment in this genre-changing series of novels starring Detective Inspector Martin Beck. This new edition has an introduction by Michael Connolly.

In one part of town, a woman robs a bank. In another, a corpse is found shot through the heart in a room locked from within, with no firearm in sight. Although the two incidents appear unrelated, Detective Inspector Martin Beck believes otherwise, and solving the mystery acquires the utmost importance. Haunted by a near-fatal bullet wound and trying to recover from the break-up of his unhappy marriage, Beck throws himself into the case to escape from the prison that his own life has come to resemble.

Written in the 1960s and 1970s, these masterpieces are the work of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo – a husband and wife team from Sweden. The ten novels follow the fortunes of the detective Martin Beck, whose enigmatic, taciturn character has inspired countless other policemen in crime fiction. The novels can be read separately, but do follow a chronological order, so the reader can become familiar with the characters and develop a loyalty to the series. Each book will have a new introduction in order to help bring these books to a new audience.

I've now read nine of the ten Martin Beck police mysteries and have only Cop Killer left unread, although I will happily reread the earlier unreviewed ones again when I get a gap in my hectic reading schedule! I think that The Locked Room is probably my favourite so far and I loved this take on the classic detective setup. Sjowall and Wahloo intertwine two apparently unrelated crimes and their ultimate connection of the dual narratives is simply brilliant!

What sets this series apart for me though is Sjowall and Wahloo's depiction of Swedish society as it was in the 1960s and 1970s. They openly criticise aspects of the Swedish state and the behaviours of their fellow Swedes, but also show the positives of Swedish life at times. Their characters interactions are a masterclass in how to present a large cast within the confines of a novel. In The Locked Room, Martin Beck actually takes a bit of a back seat so we get to spend more time with his colleagues, each of which are fully rounded characters in their own right. Even brief cameo appearances are easily imagined as are the Stockholm locations.

The Martin Beck series to my mind is easily still the best when it comes to police procedural novels and it's fun sometimes to spot Sjowall and Wahloo's influence in many of the works that have been published since. Thoughtful and inventive, these books aren't perhaps ideal for action fans, but I highly recommend them to mystery solvers.


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

8 comments:

  1. That sounds like a pretty good mystery.

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    1. This series is my favourite police crime fiction :-)

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  2. I've never heard of this series before but I have to give it a try! As you know, I have a small obsession with mystery/crime novels right now (as evidenced by my massive Agatha Christie Project) and I've been looking to diversify my mystery reading a little bit as most of my mystery experience comes from Agatha Christie. Lovely review, Stephanie!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

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    1. I'd absolutely recommend Sjowall and Wahloo to you, especially after your Agatha Christie project! I think you'll enjoy these novels :-)

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  3. My writing partner loves mysteries! She was telling me about the Inspector Huss book she just finished. I will have to tell her about the series from the 60s and 70s. Thanks Stephanie! ❤️❤️

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    1. There's great stories in this series and your partner might well spot ideas that have been 'recycled' into more recent novels!

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  4. 5 stars! Awesome! That sounds like an interesting setting, especially with how they talk about it so much. And it's great when even side characters are really realistic and well-written.

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    1. I love this series! Sjowall & Wahloo really knew how to bring their novels to life :-)

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