My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Is this the best of the 10 written by Sjöwall and Wahloo? Ironic, more bitter and cynical than its predecessors (it is the second last novel published), more than any other it is sharply critical of Swedish society of the mid 70s. If there is a Martin Beck world view, and Martin is no ideologue, this is it. Separated from Stockholm and working a case in Skane there's more opportunity for reflection and for the plot to explore a wry satirical look at the way modern journalism and state power bends reality for preferential ends.
The way these two writers construct their plots and engineer their POV is superbly crafted. They set a threshold for crime fiction that seems now only to relate to those Swedish writers who came after them. The pity is that they warrant much more deference than they get. This isn't pulp fiction by any stretch of the imagination but literary works that masquerade in a simplicity and coherency of language that ensured that none of these novels are either over written, or dramatised to the point of exaggeration. Beck is not living a fictional lifestyle, or inhabiting a mythic capacity to solve crime. He is a character in a broader existence which he cannot control or manipulate but which throws at him -- and us -- the capacity for evil through what we do to one another as our society trims our options and corporatizes our resources.
The irony is that the political dialogue that is housed in the Martin Beck series is a dénouement for the post war e boom that by the time Beck was being written up was running its course. If the welfare state was the best of all possible worlds then god help us, it is a sham.
So for those who may share a mixed nostalgia for the days before Neo-Liberalism took over, the novels of Sjöwall and Wahloo are a sharp warning that the trickle down effect wasn't trickling much at all even in everyone's favorite welfare state template, Sweden.
The one draw back with the Beck series is that after you've read the ten novels, that's it.One was published after Per Wahloo's premature death and we've had to wait until this recent republishing to be reminded of what a remarkbale series these novels are.
So there's only one thing for it: read them again, and again....