Thursday, July 22, 2010

A reader's recommendation

Now that everyone seems to be enamored of the "Girl with.." police procedurals, I thought I would go back to my favorite series of police procedurals, which are also set in Scandinavia, and see if they still hold up. Boy, do they ever!

The ten books in the Martin Beck series were written from 1967 to 1977 by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. They were a journalist and a poet who decided to write one book a year for a decade and tell the story of the social changes in Sweden during the 60's through the eyes of a Stockholm homicide detective. They succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

Just to make sure, I re-read nine of the ten ( I could not find my copy of the last book, which is also the weakest.) From the very first scene in "Roseanna", in which a nude corpse of a young woman is dredged up from a canal in the Swedish boonies, these books are totally captivating. The characters are vivid and believable, the police work is dogged and inventive, and the social changes that so interested the authors are vividly presented. We watch Sweden become a much more materialistic society, with a capitol city suffering from uncontrolled urban renewal and a police force that has been increased in size to face the "communist" threat.

My favorite of the books are "Roseanna", "The Laughing Policeman," (which was made into a very good movie starring Walter Matthau), and "Cop Killer."

At the end of the ten years,  Per Wahloo (who had married Sjowall) died.

If you can find these books - go get 'em.