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The Laughing Policeman (The Martin Beck series, Book 4) Paperback – 1 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (1 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007439148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007439140
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

‘I’ve read “The Laughing Policeman” six or eight times. Each time I reach the final twist on the final page, I shiver afresh.’ Jonathan Franzen

‘Tantalizing…the splendid story of an apparently motiveless crime.’ New York Times Book Review

‘An influential police procedural with a precision-engineered plot that can grip and shock a reader…the plotting, pacing and characterisation are all exquisite: and the halting translation and the dated, just plain weird sexual politics somehow seem only to make it more compelling.’ Independent on Sunday

‘For Beck, as with Maigret, each investigation is less a riddle to be answered than a human situation to be understood…it's all done with immense accomplishment. A welcome addition to the Martin Beck casebook.’ Matthew Coady, Guardian

‘They changed the genre. Whoever is writing crime fiction after these novels is inspired by them in one way or another.’ Henning Mankell

‘If you haven’t read Sjöwall/Wahlöö, start now.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Pick up one book…and you become unhinged. You want to block out a week of your life, lie to your boss, and stay in bed, gorging on one after another.’ Observer

About the Author

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, both left-wing journalists and politically radical, met in 1961 while working for magazines published by the same company. They married the next year and together created the Martin Beck crime series, famously writing alternate chapters at night after putting their children to bed. Wahlöö died at the age of 49 just as their 10th book was going to press. Sjöwall currently lives in Sweden and continues to work as a writer and translator. They won the esteemed Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Crime Fiction Book in 1971.


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Maxine Clarke VINE VOICE on 27 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fourth in the acclaimed Martin Beck series, THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN is another example of the controlled brilliance of this superb set of novels. The book (first published in 1967) opens with a description of an anti-Vietnam war demonstration, in which the police casually brutalize a girl demonstrator on her thirteenth birthday. Police resources have almost entirely been deployed to quelling the protesters, allowing free rein to the real criminals. The authors do not need to provide further comment on the ludicrous situation in which young girls are arrested but a blind eye is turned to thieves, muggers and worse.
Police inspectors and series regulars Beck and Kollberg are unmoved by the hysteria over the demonstrations. Their years of experience have taught them how to avoid being drafted in to help, so instead of beating up hippies they are playing chess on a dark, rainy night while Kollberg is babysitting. Later that night, however, ten people on a bus are massacred by a gunman (or woman) in a seemingly motiveless crime. The first police on the scene are the lazy radio patrolmen Kristiansson and Kvent, whom we last met in THE MAN ON THE BALCONY when they inadvertently solved the case. On this occasion, they recognize one of the victims as a homicide-squad detective, and so inform Gunvald Larsson, who in turn contacts Beck, as well as trampling all over the scene and ruining much of the forensic evidence. After a brief period in which Beck worries that the victim might be his friend Kollberg, it turns out that the dead man is the ambitious young detective Ake Stenstrom.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on 17 Feb. 2007
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Book #4, and the loveable pair of Swedish Marxists are on top form with this one; it's a real high point in the series. The procedural aspects are very much to the fore, the wonderful Gunvald Larrson character looks like he's here to stay, and there's a great comedic turn from the Keystone-like Kristiansson and Kvant. Oh, and Kollberg gets kinky. Read it!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
George Santayana

On a rainy Stockholm night a gunman opens fire on Stockholm bus, killing eight passengers and critically wounding a ninth. The crime scene is bloody and chaotic. Critical clues may have been destroyed when the first police officers arrive on the scene and trample through the bus. Police Superintendent Martin Beck is placed in charge of the investigation. There appear to be no clues and no apparent motive. His task is the monumental one of taking this chaotic scene and imposing enough order on it so that clues may be found, leads followed, and the criminal or criminals brought to justice. The physical and mental burdens of the job are compounded by emotional burdens once Beck discovers that one of the victims happens to be a detective who worked in Martin Beck's unit. That is the plot that unfolds in the opening pages of Per Wahloo and Maj Sowall's remarkably well-crafted "The Laughing Policeman".

The Laughing Policeman, published in Sweden in 1968 and in the U.S. in 1971 (winner of that year's Edgar Award for Best Novel), was the fourth in a series of ten Martin Beck mysteries written by the Swedish, husband and wife team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. The plot and structure of the four Beck mysteries I've read to date do not deviate from the standard format found in any well-written police procedural. However, what sets the Beck mysteries apart is their location and character development. Naturally enough, each book is a small window into Swedish life and culture in the 1960s and 1970s when the books were written. Further, as the series develops the character of Beck and his colleagues evolve and the reader slowly obtains a real feel for Beck and his fellow police officers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By F.R. Jameson on 27 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
The name of Martin Beck was only vaguely familiar to me when - the other week - a friend recommended these books. Having now waded in, I am immensely glad she did.

If I'm honest I was expecting something more contemporary - in the Stieg Larsson or Jo Nesbo line - not something far older and much more classic. Written and set in the Sixties, with protests against the Vietnam War as a backdrop, this is a beautifully conceived and wonderfully sharp police procedural. A bus crashes on a dark Stockholm night, and on board are the bodies of eight people who have all been shot to death. Gradually Martin Beck - our lead detective - and his team pull back the layers of mystery until we reach a tense and well thought out denouement. Even though this is the fourth book in the series (I'm told that some earlier books have not yet been translated), it's easy to hook straight in, with every character being well realised and defined, and the plot motoring forward in a way that's constantly tantalising.

Very good use is made in `The Laughing Policeman' of the snowy and oppressive Swedish winter, which makes it all the more incongruous that the film version is apparently set in San Francisco and stars Walter Matthau. Yet having enjoyed the book so much, I am almost tempted to watch it.
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