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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo - The Abominable Man
One night, a high-ranking Stockholm police officer is stabbed in his hospital bed, run through with a bayonet. The officer in question has a history of brutality towards those in custody, and as such the list of suspects seems endless. Martin Beck and his team must scour the city for a vicious killer at the same time as delving into the victim's past, which is all too...
Published on 2 May 2008 by RachelWalker

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Flat Note in a Otherwise Great Series
The Martin Beck novels are a series of gritty police procedural novels set in Sweden in the 1960s. Darkly humourous, they nevertheless expose the criminality and injustices lurking underneath the rocks of a seemingly benign Scandinavian society on the cusp of social change. The gruesome crimes that the world weary Martin Beck is called to investigate act as a sort of...
Published on 28 Aug. 2010 by Nicholas Lees


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo - The Abominable Man, 2 May 2008
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
One night, a high-ranking Stockholm police officer is stabbed in his hospital bed, run through with a bayonet. The officer in question has a history of brutality towards those in custody, and as such the list of suspects seems endless. Martin Beck and his team must scour the city for a vicious killer at the same time as delving into the victim's past, which is all too clouded with possible leads.

The Abominable Man is the 7th entry in the prolifically praised Martin Beck series, now reprinted in its entirety by HarperPerennial, each new edition coming complete with a section of goodies at the end (author interviews, essays, recommendations, etc), and seven having new introductions from contemporary authors (though this is not one of those 7). I am slowly making my way through these new translations, and discovering what crime-fiction fans in the 60's and 70's were being shown: that this is one of the most accomplished police procedural series written, certainly then, and, even greater achievement, to this day still. Comprising a decade-long examination of a city, a police force, and its constituent members, by now the decline in Swedish society that the authors wanted to highlight is well-and-truly underway in this entry, one of the most powerful and impassioned in the series so far.

The Abominable Man takes as its victim the traditions and inner cultures of the Swedish police-force, damning the methods often used in the past, the people who they formed (or allowed to become prominent), and the present changes being wrought. The plot is relatively straightforward: a police officer is run through in his sick-bed, and the investigators must find out why. It's not very complex, and as such unfolds over a much quicker period of time than many previous novels in the series, barely 24 hours in fact. As such it is one of the most immediately engaging and exciting to read, and certainly the one that reads the quickest, which made a nice change and helped to make it one of my favourites in the series so far. Admittedly, the lack of complexity in the plot (though the writing, in terms of social and character examination, is as complex as ever) makes it feel a bit slight, but the clear passion in the writing more than makes up for that. It's a short, sharp devastating bullet aimed at the Sweden of the sixties, and it certainly hits its mark. The whole thing is a near-complete triumph - exciting, pacy, interesting, and the climax is brilliant. Onto number 8...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Flat Note in a Otherwise Great Series, 28 Aug. 2010
By 
Nicholas Lees (UK) - See all my reviews
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The Martin Beck novels are a series of gritty police procedural novels set in Sweden in the 1960s. Darkly humourous, they nevertheless expose the criminality and injustices lurking underneath the rocks of a seemingly benign Scandinavian society on the cusp of social change. The gruesome crimes that the world weary Martin Beck is called to investigate act as a sort of rupture, allowing us to glimpse the everyday cruelties, social injustices and personal depravities underneath the facade of Swedish social democracy.

This unfortunately, is the weakest entry in the otherwise excellent series up to this point. The book starts off well with a tense and paranoid victim's-eye view of a brutal murder. What then follows is an investigation into a classic Martin Beck theme: police brutality and the abuse of power. Like the creators of The Wire, another piece of hard hitting social commentry disguised as brilliant crime-fiction, Sojwall and Whaloo can make the search through the archives for information about a crime totally rivetting. However, about half-way through the book, the gritty police-procedural comes to a full stop, punctuated by a shocking act of violence. What follows jettisons the realism of the Beck novels for a pulpy and Hollywood-ish scenario that really jars with the tone of the series. Of course the Beck series has a heavy American influence, but elsewhere it is transposed well into the Swedish setting, creating something unique. Here it just feels cliche. Very disappointing, but thankfully one of the few off-notes in an excellent series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just like meeting very old friends. Sjowall and Wahloo still leave most contemporary police procedural writers standing, 6 April 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Abominable Man (The Martin Beck series, Book 7) (Paperback)
I first read the Martin Beck books many years ago in the Gollancz ‘Yellow Cover’ series and listened to them again recently on the radio. I did not think that they transferred too well to that medium and so am taking the opportunity to read them again, this time in Thomas Teal’s translation. The Abominable Man’ seemed, perhaps because of its story of a gunman in a multi-storey apartment block besieged by police, to fare particularly poorly on the radio so I chose it first.

What struck me was firstly was the economy of the writing and, secondly, just how graphic the initial murder was. The impression that this killing would have made in 1971 cannot be imagined today where each police procedural book seems to compete for the greatest number of parts into which a body can be dismembered using a blowtorch and pneumatic drill. I just wish I had kept a record of my initial impression of this book, although the translator was different. Here, Teal is, to my ears, faultless.

Perhaps the spare writing is unfashionable these days. I just reveled in it. Martin Beck and Einar Rönn do not get on ‘’Damn it to hell’ said Martin Beck suddenly with emphasis. ‘Yeah,’ said Rönn. Then it was quiet again in the car’. Sociologists had a low reputation in 1970s Sweden, ‘The police force took a very dim view of sociologists….Perhaps the brass realized that in the long run it would prove untenable simply to insist that everyone involved in sociology was actually a communist or some other subversive’. Stockholm is changing ‘The inner city became a clamorous, all but impassable construction site from which the new city slowly and relentlessly arose with its broad, noisy traffic arteries, its shining façades of glass and light metal, its dead surfaces of flat concrete, its bleakness and its desolation’. As is the postal service, ‘Kollberg looked suspiciously at the stamp.... It belonged to a series of newly released stamps which, if he understood the thing correctly, guaranteed that letters bearing them would be conveyed with specious sluggishness. The kind of subtlety so typical of the post office’.

Beck is under no illusion about the work he does [‘many years of experience had taught him that most of his work was in fact pointless, and that even the things that provided results in the long run almost always looked pointless to begin with’]. The climax of the story is a stand off between a gunman and the surrounding policemen, firemen, policemen disguised as firemen, helicopters, reporters and sightseers, ‘But the net is closing,’ said Malm [in overall charge], looking pleased. This cliché was so moth-eaten that no-one even had the strength to smile inwardly. What’s more, for once it gave it gave a fairly accurate picture of the situation’. A helicopter is shot down - ‘Then came the impotent substitute for revenge. Hundreds of different weapons belched out bullets towards the building on Dalgatan. Few of them with any definite target, and none of them with any effect’.

The interrelationships between the members of the police team, the victim’s family and that of the suspect are deftly presented and we again meet ‘constables Karl Kristiansson and Kurt Kvant, two blond giants from Skåne whose nearly twelve years of adventure as radio policemen included several successful and a vast number of entirely unsuccessful actions’. I don’t think that years ago I would have appreciated the sympathy for the likely killer, let down by the system – a story that has contemporary resonance. Finally, the story is not neatly rounded off although, with the benefit of hindsight, we know that there are three more investigations to come.

In addition to this, Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s seventh novel of the ten books in their ‘Story of a Crime’ series, this Harper Perennial paperback also contains, not the usual anodyne puff about the author, his/her interests, inspirations and pets, but three short but informative essays, ‘A Policeman’s Lot is Not a Happy One’, summarising the history of the detective novel and discussing the characters in Beck’s team, ‘Society is to Blame’, discussing the social and political context of the series, and ‘Police and Policies’ describing the internal development of the series, which had always been planned to end at number ten. ‘Life at a Glance’ summarises the lives of the authors, Sjöwall is still working as a translator at the age of 78. Finally, ‘True Crime – Just the Facts?’ describes the real-life criminal and terrorist events that formed a background to the series.

It was like meeting old friends again and I need no encouragement to complete the series, as suggested in the final end text ‘Have You Read?’.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Murder, 8 Aug. 2012
In this seventh of a 10-book series, readers learn about the dubious role of Sweden's army and police during WW II. Sweden was neutral, but it allowed the Germans overland passage to occupy Norway and helped their war effort with plenty of iron and steel. Since then, army and police have shared a common ethos of a heroic past, a closed culture and an aloof mentality vis-à-vis the rest of the country. But despite many open murder cases, the Swedish police has always managed to solve murder crimes against one of their own and win convictions. Don't ask how...

A retired chief inspector is found dead in his Stockholm hospital room, cut and slashed viciously with a big, sharp object. Martin Beck's team dives into his past and quickly uncovers piles of complaints from citizens, even a few colleagues, about his blunt, brutal way of operating. In good police tradition all were dismissed. Testifying against a colleague is not done, surely not with one of his caliber and reputation. Kollberg, who once served under him in the army, calls him a pure sadist. In one of the best chapters, his closest ex-colleague lauds him as a model of correctness. His widow describes him as kind and gentle during 26 years of marriage, endlessly patient housetraining a succession of dogs. His old nickname on the force was "the abominable man from Sävle".

He is not the only policeman to die in this story. This is a real thriller which ends with a cliffhanger. Good recovery from the previous, sixth book, which was only good. This one is quite good with some memorable scenes. One caveat about the later S&W books is that although they are natural cynics, their sense of humor and irony is contrived and heavy-handed, making this reader's toes curl.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Morality of crime examined in seventh Martin Beck novel, 27 Feb. 2011
By 
Maxine Clarke "Maxine of Petrona" (Kingston upon Thames, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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THE ABOMINABLE MAN is the seventh in the Martin Beck series, and continues the bleak, downbeat trend of these superb novels. A man is gravely ill in hospital, but before the results of his tests are ready, he is brutally murdered - by the abominable man of the title? At first, we might think so, but as the book continues, we come to realise that the adjective does not apply to the killer.
Most of the events take place over a long night. The first policeman from the murder squad on the scene is Ronn, who soon calls in his boss, Martin Beck (always given both his names). Martin is not too happy to have to work with Ronn rather than his usual partner and friend, Lennert Kollberg, but nonetheless he sets out on his usual methodical investigation of the life of the murdered man, in order to see who might have perpetrated the violent act that ended his life.
The investigation proceeds against a background of an overwhelmingly miserable society and unhappy cast of characters. Earlier books in the series have been lightened by some optimistic participants, but THE ABOMINABLE MAN is characterised by policemen who have no life outside their jobs. That isn't to say that there is no black humour in the novel, for example Larsson's suggestion of the police orchestra playing "happy birthday to you" to a suspect, and sending him a poisoned birthday cake - his sarcastic take on the efforts of the incompetent Superintendent Malm to contain a ghastly situation at the climax of the book.
As is often the case with Martin Beck investigations, the interest is not "who" did the crime but what the crime reveals about the society in which it took place and which, in this case, has slowly driven a man to take a drastic and fruitless act. The books are becoming more claustrophobic as the series progresses, as the negative effects of the nationalisation of the Swedish police service, and the influence of the military as well as the political establishment, are felt by traditional cops like Beck and Kollberg.
"In his own mind, Martin Beck had to admit that the whole thing seemed pointless. In the course of his active career, Nyman had of course maltreated hundreds of people. Only a few of them had lodged written complaints and Ronn's brief investigation had uncovered only a few of these. But many years of experience had taught him [Beck] that most of his work was in fact pointless, and that even the things that provided results in the long run almost always looked pointless to begin with."
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4.0 out of 5 stars No group hugs please., 28 Feb. 2011
I love the bleakness of these books. It's like we're being punished for all the cuddly, warm PC detectives who come out victorious and get the girl. In this one our main hero ends up shot and bleeding on a balcony and the "villain" is shot dead on a roof - no space for heart-rending confessions. We all know why he did what he did. And no "well, shucks I really respect yeeuw" stuff or group hugs back at the station.

The story just stops. Bang. On to the next one.

I think the fact that these books are translated lends a colder, matter-of-fact air to the writing. It feels the same coincidentally with the Wallander series.

What I'm not so sure about is the political commentary bit. Apparently the authors had things to say about something rotten in the state of Sweden and this is what fired their bleak world view. I've always been of the opinion that Sweden's set-up is one to follow. I could be wrong. Perhaps we should have cherished Thatcher after all. I wonder what Martin Beck would say about that.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lulled into a false sense of security, 18 Feb. 2011
By 
Officer Dibble (Zummerzet) - See all my reviews
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Punchier than many of the previous books in the series. Much more action-packed with a dramatic, 'open' ending. The authors are more overt with their political comment and the woes of 1970's Sweden are a backdrop to an Ed McBain-style police procedural.

This is the seventh in the series featuring the resilient cop Martin Beck and an ensemble cast of his family and colleagues.

The style, rather like the police investigation, is often meticulous. In some of the earier books that style can almost feel pedestrian. Here the pace and the criminal events move much quicker, greatly helped by a noticeably better translation.

Whilst reading I felt that there was only one weak chapter, until a quite shocking plot twist made me realise I had been astutely set up by the authors! Up at the top level of the decalogue and also a quality stand alone read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The book gradually unravels the truth about the officer and why people might have reason to hate him. The 'dumb cop' types Krist, 3 Oct. 2014
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The trademark violent start of the books in this series, only this time the victim is a senior police officer. The book gradually unravels the truth about the officer and why people might have reason to hate him. The 'dumb cop' types Kristianssen and Kvant feature again to provide the humour. These 'police procedurals' are totally honest, for example in their criticism of Swedish police being armed and what happens if a police officer feels morally unable to shoot. This is a completely addictive series and once you have read one book in the series, you will want to track down the other nine.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Diabetic blunder, 16 Oct. 2011
By 
Kirsty "Kirsty" (Bath) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoy this series, and the care the authors take in detail. But they got a detail seriously wrong in this one. A diabetic woman dies because the police hold her in a cell, without insulin and a syringe. Trouble is, that wouldn't happen. If you're insulin dependent, you'll die fast if you take too much insulin, but if you forget injections you'll go for up to a couple of days before going into ketosis or coma. Same error happened in the movie Conair.... seems to be a common misconception.

Won't spoil the book for most people, but it will for diabetics!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Dark and gruesome, 15 Aug. 2013
By 
Dr. Peter G. Upton (Woolston, Southampton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Abominable Man (The Martin Beck series, Book 7) (Paperback)
This is perhaps the least enjoyable story in the 10 novel sequence, with the authors' views on 60's Swedish society and police deficiencies more strident. As with several others in the series, sympathy is with the perpetrator and the polemic is laid on a bit thick. The account of a helicopter attempt to solve a siege situation is chilling, but this book is certainly not for the squeamish.
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The Abominable Man (The Martin Beck series, Book 7)
The Abominable Man (The Martin Beck series, Book 7) by Per Wahloo (Paperback - 5 Jan. 2012)
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