Friday, November 30, 2007

The Man Who Went up in Smoke - post I

After some Henning Mankell it was just too tempting to head back to those other great Swedish police procedural writers - husband and wife team Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo - and the second in the series of books based on the main character of Martin Beck.

The first half of the book reminds you strongly of the Dogs of Riga because it is set in Eastern Europe in Budapest and just like the Latvian background of Mankell’s book has a feeling of subterfuge with Beck being followed throughout the city. There seems to be a better switch from Sweden to a foreign country and it is much more believable than Dogs of Riga.

But Wallander seems to have more of a personality because he is prepared to dump the police rulebook slightly more quickly and allow himself to be ruled by his heart. The policeman’s intuition is much more quickly expressed by Wallander.

Still Beck is a strong character for different reasons, the main one being that he will get the crime solved. He has his holiday ruined and is asked to head off to Budapest to find out what happened to a journalist who has disappeared. He grumbles and moans about his holiday but heads off to see if he can find the journalist. The trial is stone cold and even the local police do not seem to be that interested in the case until things hot up.

Beck manages to track down the journalist’s last known movements to a hostel where a young woman he was apparently dating lived and it is by applying pressure to her that things start to happen. Although she denies knowing anything about the journalist things develop after Beck refuses her sexual advances. He then heads out for an evening walk and is attacked and only just manages to avoid being killed by a duo that seem determined to get rid of him. At that point the local police start to take it more seriously and the case starts to unfold.

More tomorrow…

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