Wednesday, 6 March 2019

The Laughing Policeman by Sjowall And Wahloo

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall And Per Wahloo
First published in Swedish as Den skrattande polisen in Sweden in 1968. English language translation published in 1970.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fantastic fourth classic instalment in the Martin Beck detective series from the 1960s – the novels that have inspired all Scandinavian crime fiction.

The Martin Beck series is widely recognised as the greatest masterpiece of crime fiction ever written. These are the original detective stories that pioneered the detective genre and inspired writers from Agatha Christie to Henning Mankell; Graham Greene to Jonathan Franzen. Translated into 35 languages, they have sold over 10 million copies around the world.

Written in the 1960s, they 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.

On a cold and rainy Stockholm night, nine bus riders are gunned down by an unknown assassin. The press, anxious for an explanation for the seemingly random crime, quickly dubs him a madman. But Martin Beck of the Homicide Squad suspects otherwise: this apparently motiveless killer has managed to target one of Beck’s best detectives – and he, surely, would not have been riding that lethal bus without a reason.

With its wonderfully observed lawmen, its brilliantly rendered felons and their murky Stockholm underworld, and its deftly engineered plot, ‘The Laughing Policeman’ has long been recognised as a classic of the police procedural.

Another excellently plotted police thriller by the Swedish duo of Sjowall and Wahloo. I discovered the Martin Beck series back in our 2013 winter's travels and originally read this fourth novel in the seties, The Laughing Policeman, a year later. I particularly appreciate the cast of characters and it's amazing to think that the dysfunctional detective began over forty years ago with these now iconic books. The city of Stockholm almost becomes another character as descriptions of its streets and weather provide unusually vivid atmosphere. The cases aren't solved quickly either and the other important facet is the depictions of time passing which makes the whole novel feel realistic. Leads are as often misleading as helpful and I didn't see the ending coming until it had all but arrived.

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


  1. I've never heard of this one but glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    1. It's a classic series in Europe. I've read nine of the ten so have just one more of them to find