I really enjoy the Martin Beck series from Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. These are the police procedurals to end all. But what I loved about this one that I merely appreciated in the other four works in the series is how funny these are. Not in an overtly or even darkly comedic was but with the humor lightly baked in through the rage-filled observations of the detectives involved, most of whom have little idea how to interact with their fellow humans.
It’s the subtleties in the critiques of Swedish criminal justice and its society at large that make Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s books so engaging. This one isn’t substantively different from the others, but you really see the series humming by books 3-5. This case in particular is as complicated as the last one was; it seems like the writers were trying to up the degree of difficulty with every book. But again, it returns tot he familiar theme of police grunt work and gold ol’ fashioned luck. Looming in the background is the sociopolitical scene of Stockholm in the 1960s. The writing combo is good at meshing this in without being didactic. They could teach a master class on the perpetual struggle of showing versus telling.
The person who suggested this series to me said that reading the series as a whole was telling a larger narrative about society and how these people who serve as police function within it. Slowly but surely, I am beginning to see the bigger picture. This isn’t just a series of run-of-the-mill bestsellers churned out by authors who exhaust their creativity by book four. It is something bigger and I can’t wait to see how it will unfold.