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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Razor sharp police prodedural
Written towards the end of the series of 10 Martin Beck novels, this has all the features of the other novels: spare, economical writing, a sympathetic lead character in the Wallander mode, a strong ensemble cast of characters, a plausible and fairly detailed account of police procedures and an exposure of the underbelly of the Swedish social democratic 'utopia'...
Published on 1 July 2010 by Paul Martinez

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A closed book to me
So: the famous Martin Beck series.

Hmm. Well, I must say it starts well, and when Beck himself's on stage, especially when he's actually doing something, this hums along quite nicely.

The problem with the book, though, is that it's far too often used as a soap box for pseudo-political passages on, say, the Swedish welfare system, problems facing...
Published 7 months ago by JK


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Razor sharp police prodedural, 1 July 2010
Written towards the end of the series of 10 Martin Beck novels, this has all the features of the other novels: spare, economical writing, a sympathetic lead character in the Wallander mode, a strong ensemble cast of characters, a plausible and fairly detailed account of police procedures and an exposure of the underbelly of the Swedish social democratic 'utopia'.

The novel is notable for its plots which combine a classic 'locked room mystery' with a tales of both highly professional and pathetically amateurish bank robbers. It contains a laugh out loud scene where the hapless police under the hapless direction of bulldozer Olsen storm a completely empty room injuring two officers and a police dog in the process and also introduces a love interest for the chief inspector which is more believable than many in the genre.

The writing is ironic and comedic throughout and concludes with the denouement of the three plots where the innocent are punished and the guilty go free. Altogether a satisfying read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best in the series, 21 Dec 2012
By 
Jl Adcock "John Adcock" (Ashtead UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Locked Room (The Martin Beck series, Book 8) (Paperback)
This has to be one of the finest books in the much-acclaimed Martin Beck series. The authors have really developed their style by this stage, and there is an easy combination of police procedural, pacy thriller, locked room mystery and social commentary to enjoy. Martin Beck, back from leave after the incident at the conclusion of "The Abominable Man" seems curiously detached from his job and wider society, and it's this increasing sense of isolation that, perversely perhaps, makes him much more interesting as a character.

The dry humour and unexpected, almost deadpan plot switches that take the readers up blind alleys remain pure Ed McBain, but Sjowall and Wahloo have honed the influence of the 87th Precinct stories and pretty much made them their own by now, and the result is unputdownable. Apart from the crime stories that unfold in this volume, there are some beautifully observed moments to savour: Beck visiting his elderly mother in a care home, the wonderfully dotty community where an important witness is interviewed (which becomes significant in other ways as well for Beck); all add to the richness of the reading experience. I very much agree with some previous reviewers here that in terms of social observation, there are shades of the excellent Georges Simenon here.

More than anything, the Martin Beck stories reveal the truth of Swedish life as Sjowall and Wahloo experienced it - and if it's any consolation, change didn't seem for the better then, viewed with as much cycnism and suspicion as we can view the same process these days.

Fiction at its best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A closed book to me, 3 Feb 2014
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So: the famous Martin Beck series.

Hmm. Well, I must say it starts well, and when Beck himself's on stage, especially when he's actually doing something, this hums along quite nicely.

The problem with the book, though, is that it's far too often used as a soap box for pseudo-political passages on, say, the Swedish welfare system, problems facing police recruitment, etc. etc.

And the heavy-handed keystone kops style humour in places, while not unamusing, might find a more comfortable home in another novel.

Perhaps a function of the famed dual-authorship of this series? Whatever the reason, before long I found myself plodding, then skimming, then abandoning. A shame: I expected better. Is there a particularly good one I should have started with?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ode to Edgar Allan Poe and Georges Simenon, 9 Aug 2012
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After 15 months on sick leave, Martin Beck (MB) returns to work and is given a weeks-old case file, almost as a welcoming gift. Understaffing has made it a cold case. What MB reads: a complaint about a prurient smell. A patrol car responds and its two occupants first engage a locksmith, then violently enter a small apartment barricaded from the inside. The source of the stench is a 62-year old man. The autopsy report says death was caused by a bullet. Everything suggests suicide. But no weapon was found in the closed room. This is where MB picks up the case, zooming in on the victim, his past and a motive for killing him.
The series' early focus on pure police investigation slowly gave way to drawing attention to social issues. But it also made S&W famous as founders of the Scandinavian school of crime writing. From book 3, two lazy dimwits have personified Sweden's uniformed police. In this book the virus of incompetence has clearly spread to the top echelons. Again, S&W's ranting against the failings of the Swedish welfare state distract fans of pure police procedurals. But happily, there is a second story line about a crew of bank robbers, who have now killed a person. Stockholm police high command believes it has the gang under total surveillance. It keeps the book readable. And there is even a third story line about MB himself.
Many twists and turns towards the end. Brilliant solo sleuthing by MB, who during his quest finds a new lady friend. The solution of the murders and the mystery of the closed room are best left to readers to discover, in addition to the moral outcome of this brisk novel, which is dark.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Locked Room, 12 Jan 2011
Well, I waited over 30 years to read this. As a teen I bombarded my local library with requests for Sjowall and Wahloo. Then life intervened and the wait for an English translation seemed a trifle irrelevant. Well, I'm glad I had to wait. A 15 year old has a very different take on life from a 55 year old. The series is extraordinary. This book is superlative. (Strong sense of humour and/or the ridiculous advised.) Five stars for sure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Swedish masterpiece, 7 July 2014
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This review is from: The Locked Room (The Martin Beck series, Book 8) (Paperback)
This series of books is outstanding combining humour, sociological insight and murder with a twist. This is a classic locked room murder mystery following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes. Despite being written in the sixties this is timeless. Read it and you won't be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars exactly what you would expect from these stars, 26 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Locked Room (The Martin Beck series, Book 8) (Paperback)
yet again S&W triumph.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps things are looking up for Martin Beck?, 26 May 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Locked Room (The Martin Beck series, Book 8) (Paperback)
This book is the longest thus far of the authors’ books in ‘The Story of a Crime’ series and certainly the most complex. It is also the book in which the authors’ leftwing politics find their strongest expression in attacks on politicians, the police, pensions, social security and taxes [‘Stockholm has one of the highest suicide rates in the world…… For the fact of the matter is that the so-called Welfare Sate abounds with sick, poor, and lonely people, leaving at best on dog food, who are left uncared for until they waste away and die in their rat-hole tenements.’]. It is also the most humorous.

The focus is shifted from the police to a gang of bank robbers and we find Martin Beck returning to work after 15 months’ convalescence after the events described in the latter pages of ‘The Abominable Snowman’. The opening chapter describes a bank robbery that draws the reader immediately into the narrative.

This book was originally published in1972, two years after its predecessor, and is republished by Harper Perennial in a translation by Paul Britten Austin that has stood the test of time. Beck is uncertain about his future, having repeated nightmares at night and concerned with getting through one day at a time. His body may now be mended, but mentally he is far from healthy.

On his return to work he is given the case of a badly decomposing body discovered in a locked room, with its windows sealed, weeks after being shot. In a storyline that relates to the classic ‘murder in a locked room’ mysteries, no gun was found with the body that had been shot through the heart. The victim ‘had dragged out his days on his pension. In other words he belonged to that category for whom the supermarket chains maintain overstocked counters of dog and cat food. A half-empty can of cat food, with the label ‘Miaow’ had been the only apparently edible constituent of his larder.’ Beck quickly realises just how perfunctory the original investigation had been.

Meanwhile Kollberg, Larsson and Rönn have been assigned to the new National Police Board team under the leadership of the sartorially-challenged ‘Bulldozer’ Ohlsson [‘A crumpled light blue suit, a piggy-pink shirt, and a wide flowery tie. Black socks and pointed brown shoes with stitching – notably unbrushed.’], a supremely confident and ambitious district attorney. The team is investigating a series of bank robberies led by two criminals, Malmström and Mohrén. For readers who know Beck’s team, one of the surprises is that Kollberg and Larsson are actually talking to one another.

Given that Beck has been out of action for over a year and that Malmström, Mohrén and their accomplices have a backstory, the first part of the book takes its time in bringing the reader up to date. Thereafter, there are chapters where, if it were possible, the authors reach even greater heights, as in the story of Monita, a single mother who finds the pressures of everyday life impossible to deal with unless she resorts to crime, and [in Chapter 18] when Bulldozer’s strategy to capture the bank robbers doesn’t quite go according to plan.

With the exception of Beck’s mother, who is now unable to look after herself in her old people’s home, his family are not mentioned but, in the course of his investigation, he meets an unconventional woman who, in making him laugh, causes him to question where his life might be going.

In addition to writing alternate chapters, Sjöwal and Wahlöö were restricted to writing in the evenings after their children had gone to bed. This does not seem to have affected their plotting which remains convincing and tense. It is a fascinating sign of the times that the authors introduces a witness who, seeing the police as representatives of the state’s antagonism to the individual, invents a story purely to hamper the investigation.

Once again, the Harper Perennial edition benefits from an excellent introduction, this time by Michael Connelly, whilst the short PS essays by Richard Shepherd [‘A Policeman’s Lot is not a Happy One, ‘Society is to Blame’ and Police and Policies’] as well as 'Life at a Glance’, 'True Crime – Just the Facts’ and 'The Hit List' and 'More Dynamic Duos’ all add to the pleasure of this book.

It would be better to read this book after ‘The Laughing Policemen’ and, ideally, to read all the novels in sequence.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dated but good, 13 Feb 2014
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This is a less graphic thriller than some of the other noir from Scandinavia and all the better for that. Beck and his home life are pretty dismal but the solution of the crimes is good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "...frightened people are dangerous people...", 10 Feb 2014
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Locked Room (The Martin Beck series, Book 8) (Paperback)
Set in 1960s Sweden in a period when the social system was rife with protest this has a nostalgic feel of uncertainty and change. A young woman robs a bank at gunpoint and accidentally shoots a man; she flees the scene successfully however, with a quantity of cash. Meanwhile, another man, a miserable old devil has also been shot, but he is found in a locked room two months later and though he is definitely dead of a gunshot, no gun is found at the scene.

There have been a series of bank robberies in Stockholm and a cop known as Bulldozer Kollberg is in charge of solving these crimes. A trap is set for the two men suspected of the crime (they assume the girl who did the latest robbery was a man in disguise). There is a delightfully hilarious mix-up that degenerates into farce as the cops go in, guns blazing, only to find the robbers have already fled. Kollberg is easily the most inept and comic police invention I've come across.

These two crimes have an accidental link that is resolved very late in the book. Meanwhile, the plot spreads its tentacles magnificently and incidentally exposes the ineptitude, along with the unpopular nature of political leaders and social systems. The hero of the hour is Martin Beck, a Chief Inspector who deftly plugs away at the locked room mystery with ingenious and prodigious determination and the help of a woman called Rhea. Only some of the wrong-doers are unmasked, and one gets away entirely free, but readers have the delightful dramatic irony, beautifully exploited, to provide a full explanation. Marvellous, funny, ironic, I am determined now to read all of their ten books.
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The Locked Room (The Martin Beck series, Book 8)
The Locked Room (The Martin Beck series, Book 8) by Per Wahloo (Paperback - 5 Jan 2012)
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