Friday, January 09, 2009

book review - The Fire Engine that Disappeared


Some of these books are better than others but I am unashamed to say that I thoroughly enjoy the Martin Beck thrillers from Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Between them the husband and wife team manage to weave together a story that often seems to be in two halves with the crime and the misunderstanding around it taking up the first chunk before they pin it down in the second.

Interestingly the main character Martin Beck doesn’t feature a great deal in this book as the other detectives step into the spotlight and help crack a crime that at first seems to be suicide and then a crime where it will be almost impossible to find the killer.

What keeps it going of course is the determination and dedication of a handful of detectives who refuse to give in even when the odds of them getting a resolution to the crime seem to be remote.

Along with the police Sweden itself plays a role along with the weather as the cold streets of Swedish cities and docks add to the mood and the feeling of despondency.

As part of the story there is a development in Beck’s family life with the breakdown of his marriage more obvious and his daughter opting to move out and make life at home even more unbearable. But he is largely in the shadows and that is a brave move. It would be hard to imagine an Inspector Morse story where the spotlight fell wholly on Lewis and others in the department solved the crime.

But that is the difference that Sjowall and Wahloo bring along with a determination to introduce political themes of the day, in this case the rumblings of discontent against the 60s love culture and drugs.

Although it is hardly going to be put on the library shelf in the category of great literature this is a real joy to read and there are moments when reading should provide this sort of experience.

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