My word, this feels like the police procedural to end all. For reasons I can and cannot spoil.
I’m not a big fan of police procedurals. I prefer private eyes or unlikely detectives in the mold of Hitchcock. In real life, detective work doesn’t get solved by a Sherlock Holmes-type using inductive reasoning until the killer is revealed by sheer cleverness. Instead, it takes hard, grinding work, and if a case is solved, it’s usually due to a combination of labor and luck. If a police procedural does this with a degree of verisimilitude, it is likely a boring read.
The Man on the Balcony is not a boring read. It is a thriller and more. Martin Beck, the lead in the first two books and certainly not a detective of the Holmes/Poirot variety, is a supporting character. There is no lead except for the handful of detectives trying to figure this out, as well as the citizens of Stockholm either assisting or interfering, sometimes in hilarious ways. I was desperately turning the pages trying to figure out who the killer was and yet, I was also enjoying how the two writers laid this out. It felt like a deconstruction of the police procedural. Rather than portray clever, hard drinking, tough talking men, Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s leads are confused, scared, frustrated, and often flustered by this nearly unsolvable crime. They keep working but it takes their work and a lot of luck to save the day.
Three books in and this is the best of the series by far. I’m quite excited to go through the rest of it.