I recently finished up re-reading the ten Martin Beck novels… which I highly recommend.
These detective stories are funny, poignant, political, and have the some of the best pacing anywhere. Read them. Start with Roseanna and read the series in order. This is the third brief blog article (earier articles: Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s Great Martin Beck Series and The tired heroes) where I’ve explored them, and today I’ll focus on solutions, and especially on the character Rhea Nielsen.
(Note that there’s a lot of great great stuff in the series that I haven’t touched on – these blog articles just barely scratch the surface.)
The fictional Martin Beck is the lead detective on a team of Stokholm police detectives. Beck is featured in a ten novel series, collectively known as The Story of Crime, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, dating from the mid-1960s to the mid1970s. These novels are the forerunners for later popular Swedish detective fiction, including work by Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell.
Sjöwall and Wahlöö were a wife and husband team; both journalists with literary aspirations. She, a poet. He, a novelist. Clearly she’s a novelist too! Note that I tracked down his novels without her (translated ones available in English at the L.A. Public Library), and they’re not half as good as the Beck series – sort of Kafka-esque political fantasies – good, but not great. A librarian told me that Sjöwall and Wahlöö plotted the Beck series together, then split up chapters and each of them wrote separately, alternately generating draft chapters, often while on vacation with their kids.
The books are critical of Swedish society. The authors are fairly negative about a lof of things: urban redevelopment, governmental bureaucracy, pollution, noise, traffic, health care (in the form of Beck’s mother’s bleak old folks’ home), and more. Some accounts, for example the Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö Wikipedia’s article, mention how Sjöwall and Wahlöö were socialists and how the books are indeed a socialist critique.