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The Man Who Went Up in Smoke Paperback – June 29, 1993

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Editorial Reviews


“Sjöwall and Wahlöö write unsparingly and unswervingly. . . . Fast moving storytelling. . . . Their plots are second to none.” —Val McDermid, from the introduction "Enormously satisfying. . . . Terse, tense and eminently readable." —Chicago Tribune“Ingenious. . . . Their mysteries don't just read well; they reread even better. . . . The writing is lean, with mournful undertones.”—The New York Times“The husband-wife combination forms a superb story-telling team.”—El Paso Times

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Swedish

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 29, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679745971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679745976
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,276,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on January 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
I met a man who wasn't there.

Summer vacation season is in full swing and Inspector Martin Beck has just arrived in an isolated summer cottage on an island off the Swedish coast. The very next morning a neighbor rows out to advise him that he is wanted on the telephone. He is needed back in Stockholm for a meeting with the Police Chief and the Swedish Foreign office. Beck grudgingly returns for the meeting and is asked to travel to Budapest, Hungary to find a missing journalist. The journalist, Alf Matsson, has gone missing and the tabloid newspaper he works for has pressured the Foreign Office to search for the report. Beck has been asked to `volunteer' for the task. Despite, or perhaps because of, his wife's displeasure (their marriage is not in the best condition) at his departure, Beck accepts the assignment. In short order he is provided with a full set of travel documents, a brief dossier on Matsson, and a ticket for Budapest. The only thing Beck lacks is the first clue as to how to locate Matsson.

As the story progresses we see Beck put together bits and pieces of information as he wanders, seemingly aimlessly, through the picturesque streets of Budapest. Beck is traveling purely as a civilian and soon attracts the attention of the Budapest police force, in particular a detective who may or may not be an ally of Beck. Beck also attracts the attention of what may be either Budapest's underworld or representatives of the Hungarian security forces. For all intents and purposes Beck is a stranger in a strange land.

As with all the other Martin Beck mysteries in this ten-book series (this is the third in the series), "The Man Who Went Up in Smoke" is rich with character-driven narrative.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
This, the second Martin Beck mystery, is somewhat atypical. The inspector is not operating in Sweden but in Budapest, where a Swedish journalist named Alf Matsson has disappeared. Beck's "hopeless meaningless assignment" is to find Matsson - with no official status and no staff support.

It's the Iron Curtain era, besides, and the case may be politically sensitive. So Beck is forbidden to speak with the local police.

Clueless and directionless, Beck wanders around admiring the Danube and feasting on Hungarian food at a tourist's pace, even though he's been told to find his man in a week. But he does unearth a few suggestive details. Eventually his very presence starts stirring things up.

As Val McDermid points out in her insightful introduction, the plotting of the Martin Beck mysteries is superb. With this book, you think you're getting one kind of story, and it turns into something quite different.

Before Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö became crime writers, they were journalists, and here they paint a fascinating picture of a rowdy set of hard-working, hard-drinking reporters and feature writers. The missing journalist emerges as a particularly nasty character. Beck finds himself feeling strangely indifferent to Matsson's fate as he moves closer to finding him.

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke was first published in 1966. Martin Beck is already middle-aged and seems to like his job better than his family. The obsessive depressive Swedish detective we meet again and again in today's Scandinavian crime fiction can be traced back to Martin Beck.

I loved the casual realism of this book, the spare prose, the quirky humor and the unpredictable meanderings of the plot. There's a subtlety of approach that reminds me of Simenon. I plan to read the whole series in order.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Christine Maingard on October 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
It is hard to believe that The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) was written in the mid-60's and published in English in 1969. Swjowall & Wahloo were a husband & wife writing team (perhaps this is were Nicci French got their aspiration from) who have written a series of police thrillers and this one is the second in the "Martin Beck" series.

I loved this timeless gem that so masterfully portrays Swedish Detective Inspector Beck in his pursuit of uncovering the disappearance of a journalist in Budapest. Were it not for the obvious absence of any reference to technology & mobile phones one would think that the story was only written yesterday. Swjowall & Wahloo are masters in examining human nature and their plot, both in terms of subject and structure, is flawless.

If you like timeless police thrillers, this is well worth a read.

Christine Maingard, Author of 'Think Less Be More:Mental Detox for Everyone'
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rick Skwiot on September 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It had been decades since I'd read a Martin Beck roman policier from the Swedish team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö - so long that I can't remember which ones I might have read. But on a friend's recommendation I went back to Beck in a 1969 mystery "The Man Who Went Up In Smoke." While reputedly not their best effort, it was good enough for me to want to read more.

In it Detective Beck interrupts his summer vacation to travel from Stockholm to Budapest to investigate the seeming disappearance there of a Swedish journalist. While the plot is not that intriguing, the policemen are -- Swedes and Hungarians alike. They share a stocism, a sardonic Weltanschauung, and unresolved marital problems. As a result, they come off as human beings at work instead of formulaic heroic crime-fighters.

As when Beck's colleague Kollberg is receiving an oral report on the apprehension of two suspects from an unimaginative provinical Swedish cop, Backlund, who states that they "`were taken to police Patrolmen Kristiansson and Kvant. Both men were under the influence of alcohol.'"

"`Kristiansson and Kvant?'"

"Backlund gave Kolberg a look of reproach and went on..."

Subtle humor, Swedish humor perhaps, which peppers the gritty novel at unexpected moments.

But most alluring is the Cold War-era view of Europe, the deliberate pacing, and the crisp prose as translated by Joan Tate. The result is soothing, reminding me of Simenon's Maigret novels. Like Maigret, Beck drinks a lot. Also like Maigret, he has a long-suffering wife -- though Beck's does not suffer silently as does Madame Maigret.

From 1965 to 1975 Sjöwall and Wahlöö published 10 Martin Beck mysteries, the most noted being "The Laughing Policeman," made into a 1973 movie, set in San Francisco in lieu of the novel's Stockholm, with Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern.
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