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on 15 November 2017
spot on and quick delivery
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on 24 November 2017
This might be a good book -- but I've ordered it twice from Amazon, and both times there is a Fourth Estate printer's error -- top 4-5 lines missing from each page. So if you order it, beware that it might be defective!!!!!
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on 22 March 2000
This is the real turning point in Martin Beck's career. He is now separated and meets Rhea Nielsen his soul mate.
The 'Locked Room' mystery is supposed to break him back into work after a long recuperation from the bullet wound in the previous book. 'Bulldozer' Olsson and his methods, and the ongoing militarisation of the police make Martin more and more cynical. The murderer being found guilty of the wrong murder makes him feel even more distant from the 'system'. Lennart Kollberg also finally resigns.
The series of ten are a searing indictment of Swedish society through the sixties and seventies.
Read all 10 books, IN ORDER.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 May 2014
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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VINE VOICEon 26 November 2013
A woman dons a disguise and robs a bank, so naturally we expect the story to develop from this incident. Which it does, but in such a circuitous manner you don't realise where the book is taking you and may feel the authors have lost the plot. In fact, this is one of best of the ten novels in the Martin Beck series and, unlike some, features Beck quite a lot.

It is well known that the writers were left wing tending to Marxist in their view of society, and while this is implied more than stated in some of the books (the second, for example), here the criticism of Swedish society at the time is quite overt, ranging from the phrase `so-called welfare state' to a hostile critique several pages long.

In case we fail to get the message, the police are portrayed as heavy handed in their treatment of demonstrators and often incompetent in their attempts to deal with crime. On one occasion in this book there is a concerted raid on a room thought to contain dangerous criminals. The police storm the room in numbers and with considerable force. Shots are fired. An officer is injured and a police dog shot. Which is strange given that the criminals aren't in at the time. The description of this incident is pure Keystone Cops, and is plainly intended to make the police appear ridiculous.

Yet despite all this the book is remarkably subtle, especially in the way the woman who robs the bank is tied in with a career criminal: a careful man who, in this case isn't careful enough. There is also the matter of Beck figuring out what had actually happened in the locked room and why. This is a remarkable achievement on his part, but his correct explanation is not believed and his state of mind questioned. Who said life was fair?
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on 9 August 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 19 January 2007
you can grasp hold of it and show off what you can do." Mickey Friedman

There is no mystery formula more traditional than the locked door mystery. It is almost as old as the genre itself. So, when an author(s) writes a book in which the central plot device is a murder committed in a locked room it can best be judged not for originality but for the panache (or lack thereof) with which it is carried off. Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall get high marks for performance in "The Locked Room".

"The Locked Room", published in Sweden in 1972 and in the U.S. in 1973 was the eighth 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. In fact, and as noted, this plot seems to pay homage to police or detective procedurals generally. 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. At the same time the characters, especially Beck, remain far from predictable. However, they are already fully formed in the authors' minds and for that reason I suggest reading these books in order. (Unfortunately, although Vintage Crime/Black Lizard has republished some in this series a few of the books are currently out of print.)

In "The Locked Room" Inspector Martin Beck has just returned from an extended leave while he recovered from gunshot wounds. (The shooting takes place in The Abominable Man) and is tasked with investigating the death of a man found dead in a locked room. At the same time, the rest of his squad are investigating a bank robbery in which a masked, robber has managed to shoot and kill one of the bank's customers. The investigations are, or appear to be, unrelated and the rest of the book is devoted to the parallel investigations.

One of the pleasures of reading these Martin Beck stories is the way in which the reader sees the process of the investigation. There are no Sherlock Holmes-like flashes of genius. Rather, we see how Beck and his colleagues struggle (sometimes comically, sometimes incompetently) to put together the jigsaw puzzle of a crime. At the same time we catch glimpses of Beck's personal life and the lives of his fellow detectives.

Like a good gymnast "The Locked Room" succeeds is showcasing how well Sjowall and Wahloo can work within a tried and true formula. The ending, which I found a bit surprising and thought-provoking, was more than satisfying if more than a bit ironic. Highly recommended. L. Fleisig
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on 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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on 8 August 2017
Anyone else had a problem with the printing of this book.
It appears that a number of lines have been missed at the bottom of each page and at the top of the next page. I can follow the story line but it is very frustrating.
Too late to return.
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VINE VOICEon 21 December 2012
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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