One of the best in an already great series, The Abominable Man grapples with a lot and spares no emotion.
At the heart of this offering is what it means for a country to be policed. It’s a discussion that’s been had by a broader swath of Americans since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which though originally inspired by the murder of Trayvon Martin, galvanized the deaths of young black men at the hands of law enforcement. Police brutality in the States has its historic roots in anti-blackness and xenophobia, but it is not a phenomenon limited here.
What little I know about the evolution of Swedish police departments, I learned from this series. Maybe it’s all bs, I don’t know. The writers certainly have their political bend. But it appears to me that Sweden, Stockholm in particular, had some major police reforms in the 60s to crack down on rampant brutality and corruption within law enforcement. The effects of this were still being felt in the early 1970s, when the book takes place.
The Abominable Man is an unflinching look at the subject. It’s a violent book, perhaps more violent than any other in the Martin Beck series. And it’s a book without heroes. From the decedent, a former police officer himself, to the officers investigating and to the Stockholm department writ large, none are spared a keen examination of what it means to police a populace. If Murder at the Savoy was preachy to the point of being sententious on income inequality, The Abominable Man is a denouement on the issue of law enforcement. There are no answers, not even at the end of the book. And that’s what makes it so good.
You don’t need to read this series in order to appreciate it but the joy of trying to do so is how it allows you, the reader, to see how the writers develop the story over time. This newest step in its evolution is one of the best and it will remain with me.