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Roseanna: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (1) (Martin Beck Police Mystery Series) Paperback – September 30, 2008
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“A modern classic. . . . Lively, stylistically taut . . . Sjöwall and Wahlöö changed the genre.” —Henning Mankell, from the introduction
"A wonderfully tough and pleasantly chilling tale . . . told without a wasted word."—Harper's
"One of the most authentic, gripping and profound collections of police procedurals ever accomplished."—Michael Connelly
“Superb suspense. . . . Let no mystery authority worth the appellation miss Roseanna. . . . I have never read a finer police story.” —Dorothy B. Hughes, Los Angeles Times
"The first great series of police thriller....Truly exciting."—Michael Ondaatje
“Sjöwall and Wahlöö are the best writers of police procedural in the world.”—Birmingham Post
About the Author
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, her husband and coauthor, wrote ten Martin Beck mysteries. They plotted and researched each book together then wrote alternate chapters. The books were written over a ten year period and carefully planned to allow for gradual character development and evolving social commentary as the series continued. Mr Wahloo, who died in 1975, was a reporter for several Swedish newspapers and magazines and wrote numerous radio and television plays, film scripts, short stories, and novels. Maj Sjöwall is also a poet.
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Moreover, a murder mystery set in the Sweden of the 1960's is a stroke of genius. The Sweden revealed in the book, an insular place off the beaten track, where English-speaking tourists were as rare as Swedes who could converse in English, rings profoundly true to someone who was there - in childhood, I spent six weeks in Stockholm, in the summer of 1963, and reading the book now in late middle age I find lots to like. I was there because my father, a criminology professor at an American university, had arranged a study tour to investigate why Sweden, which had none of the triggers that were (and are) believed to cause crime in the US, still had a crime problem. Sweden was an early Socialist welfare state. It had free universal health care, free guaranteed pensions, a near-equality of income that made for essentially no poverty, strict gun control laws, and hardly any controls on pornography but very strict controls on what movie violence children could watch. Practically every Swede was white, in fact, most were blond and blue-eyed, so racism had little room for development. Our host, Professor Carl-Gunnar Jansson (deceased so I can use his real name), admitted he was paying 80% of his income in taxes, "But it doesn't matter - I'm not saving because my medical care and pension are guaranteed." Those of us who have enjoyed sports cars, boats, and horseback riding are perfectly aware that having your physical needs guaranteed does not mean you are immune to the desire for additional funds! Also, even though a child at the time, I accidentally discovered that a nearby park was "home" (at least in summer) to a number of drunks who erected shacks out of scavenged materials. With ordinary greed, sex, and substance abuse, there is no need of other excuses for people to go to the bad - plenty of crimes will still be committed, as officials informed my father during our visit.
Martin Beck, the police investigator who is the hero of the piece, is a middle-aged family man whose wife tries to pamper him but he would rather she didn't. He builds ship models and fondly remembers sailing in the Archipelago in his youth; the irregular hours are doing bad things to his health - perhaps he's also suffering psychologically from "Scandinavian gloom" - but he's totally committed to finding the murderer once he is put on the case. He rings profoundly true as a character. He persists in the chase over many months, involving police professionals in several countries, until he gets the perpetrator.
The book moves along briskly even though it's page 5 before we meet Mr. Beck. Longer than average for a detective novel, it never drags, and for someone who remembers the Sweden of the time there are also occasional place-names, although descriptions are very spare as is appropriate to the genre, to bring back memories. While the book was originally in Swedish, the translation is excellent, very literate and certainly must be faithful to the original (or the translator actually improved the text). I recommend it without reservations except for the usual warnings about sex and violence. If you're afraid to read about those things you wouldn't read murder mysteries anyway!
I really enjoyed the slow development of the plot, as we gradually come to learn more about the murder victim, Roseanna, an American tourist, and her past life in Nebraska, and the details of the grisly murder. And gradually Martin Beck and his team begin to zero in on her potential murderer. The tension built slowly but inexorably, and I liked the ending a lot.
I think there will be more of Martin Beck in my future...
Most recent customer reviews
I am not a lover of mysteries in the way many friends are. Read them rarely.
I do love Kate Atkins.Read more