Friday, 19 March 2021

The Abominable Man by Sjowall and Wahloo

The Abominable Man by Sjowall and Wahloo
First published in Swedish as Den vedervärdige mannen från Säffle in Sweden in 1971.

How I got this book:
Borrowed the ebook from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The seventh classic instalment in this genre-changing series of novels featuring Detective Inspector Martin Beck.

On a quiet night a high-ranking police officer, Nyland, is slaughtered in his hospital bed, brutally massacred with a bayonet. It's not hard to find people with a motive to kill him; in fact the problem for Detective Inspector Martin Beck is how to narrow the list down to one suspect. But as he investigates Nyland's murder he must confront whether he is willing to risk his life for his job.

Written in the 1960s, 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 first blogged this review on Stephanie Jane in October 2015.

It's been months since I read any of Sjowall and Wahloo's Martin Beck series. Dave had bought this seventh story, The Abominable Man, through his Amazon account so I got to share it via Family Library. As the novel was first published some forty years ago, I am including The Abominable Man as my 1970s read for the 2015-16 Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

The tense thriller had me gripped from the start and I couldn't put it down so read the whole book in an afternoon. This is one of the strongest storylines so far and I liked how Sjowall and Wahloo wove in biting criticism of the Swedish social system at the time without interrupting their narrative flow. The whole drama takes place in less than a day which is remarkably fast for this series, yet none of the intricate and careful plotting had been sacrificed. The large cast of characters, some new and some already known, are all realistically portrayed and I loved the sense of world-weariness that pervades every page. This is a thrilling thriller, but viewed through eyes that have already seen too much which gives it a distinctive voice. Many authors have since emulated Sjowall and Wahloo - in fact I have read uncannily similar plots in other books - but I would say that the Swedish series are still the best. And, other than the lack of technological gizmos, haven't dated at all.

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

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