A Martin Beck Mystery

Book - 2008
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"The masterful first novel in the Martin Beck series of mysteries ... finds Beck hunting for the murderer of a lonely traveler. On a July afternoon, a young woman's body is dredged from Sweden's beautiful Lake Vattern. With no clues, Beck begins an investigation not only to uncover a murderer but also to discover who the victim was. Three months later, all Beck knows is that her name was Roseanna and that she could have been strangled by any one of eighty-five people on a cruise. As the melancholic Beck narrows the list of suspects, he is drawn increasingly to the enigma of the victim, a free-spirited traveler with a penchant for casual sex, and to the psychopathology of a muderer with a distinctive -- indeed, terrifying -- sense of propriety"--P. [4] of cover.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2008
Edition: Second Vintage CrimeBlack Lizard edition
ISBN: 9780307390462
Branch Call Number: FICTION Sjo
Description: x, 212 pages ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Wahlöö, Per 1926-1975


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May 31, 2017

This is a departure from the conventional crime novel, a very narrowly focussed police procedural. There are no clues to figure out, no elaborate settings or plots, no insight into the criminal mind. It simply traces the slow and painstaking steps of analyzing a murder, building up information and gradually identifying the suspects and then trying to find evidence to confirm a case. Except for the somewhat overdrawn final chapter, we have no idea what motivates the murderer. All this is, I suspect, much more like a real police case than the psychological profilers and intuitive detectives that we see so much today (at least in my television experience, and I don’t watch or read much criminal fiction because it just seems so overdone).
For my temperament, this approach is interesting and satisfying, although I can imagine that for many readers it would be too dry. For the first three months of the plot, the police don’t even know who the victim is, until someone matches a missing person report from the USA to the Swedish murder. The story reproduces investigation reports and interrogations without extraneous description or comments on the reaction of those questioned. The reader has to piece together the details from the words reported. Even the interior monologue of the lead detective doesn’t advance the plot or contribute to understanding the crime. The pace is even more constrained by the time period, the early sixties when the only instant communication was the telephone, and investigators had to wait while documents were couriered from one place to another. Forensics are limited and high-tech doesn’t exist.
In spite of this style, the novel is intriguing for the realistic portrayal of what an actual police investigation might be like in reality. This, to me, seems like the investigations that I read about in news media, when even with the benefit of instantaneous communications it takes weeks to get lab reports and months or more to build a case. Investigators’ hunches, both right and wrong, come from what the witnesses actually say or what’s in the evidence, not from brilliant intuition. And they have to be proven on the basis of evidence that will stand up in court. I expect that this is because the authors were journalists, and presumably has some knowledge of the realities of criminal investigation. Also, as Marxists, they want to see conclusions drawn from material fact.
The characters are thinly drawn and the action is slow – although there is one sequence at the end when an intensity builds, the police lose track of the suspect and suspense is real. But the stories do give an interesting picture of a police investigation in a realistic Swedish setting at a particular time. I’m interested enough to want to read more in the Martin Beck series.

Nov 26, 2015

Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall showed the manuscripts of Roseanna to the publishers and they quickly wrote up a contract for this and nine more novels to be written in the next nine years. Wahloo, a crime journalist for many years, help to guide the novels to match authentic crime solving. Prior to each novel, the pair of authors performed meticulous research on the science, geography, and infrastructure that would be included in the novels. Often the investigations seem to be at a dead-end, then they pick up again when new clues appear.

Oct 28, 2015

For some reason have been holding off reading the Scandinavian mystery writers. Having read Alex by Pierre Le Maitre, a French writer, thought I should give these guys a try. Well, I'm going to start reading more of these. Good procedural novel, its just slogging along police work. I dug it.

Feb 10, 2014

I can see why this is considered a masterpiece of crime fiction. I'll be reading the rest of this series.

jeanner222 Jun 28, 2013

I discovered this mystery series while watching a really interesting documentary on PBS: Lone Wolves and Dragon Tattoos: How Scandinavian Crime Fiction Conquered the World.

In recent years, Scandinavian crime fiction has become really hot. Long before The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hit the bestseller list, there was the Martin Beck series. Martin Beck is a First Detective Inspector with the National Police. He has worked with the Homicide Bureau for eight years. There is nothing special or unique about Beck. Like the author’s style of writing, Beck is a very straightforward figure.

The mystery presented to readers is not very complicated. While a lake is being dredged, a dead body is discovered. Unfortunately, no one reported to be missing even remotely resembles the body found. Who is this woman? How and where was she killed? And, of course, who killed her?

As a part of a team, Beck slowly unravels the mysterious death of Roseanna McGraw. Beck is quiet and thoughtful and relies upon his instincts. Of course, he is successful with this method.

I liked this Swedish police procedural from the ‘60s. I enjoyed the authors’ straightforward approach to mystery writing. With such clear and spare style, the authors present a decent mystery with a likable sleuth.

Aug 08, 2012

I am planning on reading all ten fo the series. I get the impression these authors caused a shift in style of detective novels, but the attribute their insiration to Ed McBain mystery writer. I read all his books years ago. I see CSI, NCIS TV shows etc. as being strongly influences by the personal aspect of their lives being included in the story line. Especially things like including how they use their hobbies to de-stress.

Feb 25, 2012

martin beck #1


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