Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Roseanna - post I

Do you ever get one of those days when you pick up a book in a charity shop without much of a clue about its contents and then when you start to read it get a very pleasant surprise? Today has been one of those rare and precious moments.

What first attracted me to Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo was not only that it is written by Swedish authors, which is not something you come across everyday, but also that Edgar Allan Poe is mentioned in the introduction. Any detective story would naturally be referenced back to Poe but in his introduction Henning Mankell makes the point that this is not a book trying to ape someone else’s style.

You think that maybe those claims are one thing and reality will be another but things start and carry on in such a way that not only is this different but it is so well written that you start planning to purchase the other nine books in the series.

Bullet points between pages 1 – 73

* A body is found in a canal by a dredger, which pulls it out in its bucket and then dumps the female body on the side of the towpath starting off a police investigation that is handled by the small and local police force

* To help out with the local police Martin Beck and two colleagues are sent from Stockholm but they have no joy either even identifying the victim who seems to have no name even after numerous door-to-door enquiries

* Beck who is brilliantly described as being on the border of being ill most of the time in a marriage that seems to be pretty mundane and joyless becomes obsessed with solving the case along with one of the detectives from the local force he leaves behind

* Beck starts off looking for missing persons who are not from the area but visiting on vacation and eventually, after three months, he gets a breakthrough with an American police force recognising Roseanna a librarian who has gone missing

* Beck concentrates with his like minded local colleague Ahlberg on following their hunch that Roseanna was on board a boat and they track her down to being a passenger on a boat named Diana which throws up some blood samples from her cabin after forensics give it the once over

* The next task is to track down the other passengers and try to recreate what happened in the murder scene, a bleak small cabin on the Diana

Maybe I haven’t read enough crime fiction to know but I have never come across an example where for three months almost nothing happens and you get to share the tense desperation of the investigating officer. When the breakthrough comes a rush of excitement runs through you and far from being switched off it keeps you hanging on for more waiting to get back on the train to work to read the next instalment.

More tomorrow…

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