Is this it? Really it? All I get from the Martin Beck series?
What great books these are. They’ve ruined the police procedural for me forever.
When I first sat down to read Roseanna about five years ago, I would have never guessed this would become one of my favorite book series of all time. I found it to be a drab, uninspiring procedural novel. Fun if you like reading about shoe leather detective work but otherwise nothing special.
And then someone turned me on to the rest of the series, saying it was probably the best book series they’ve ever read. So I went back to it. I liked book two. By book three, I was hooked. The rest, as they say, is history.
And now, we’re at the end of the road.
I believe this was completed shortly before Maj Sjöwall died. At the very least, I got a sense of both urgency and closure. Now that can sometimes lead to sloppiness. But we’re in capable hands here. These books are not always perfect (though they sometimes are) but they are never sloppy.
Here are essentially three cases in one that tie together to reveal the authors many criticisms of Sweden. Throughout the whole series, they’ve touched on nearly every aspect of Swedish society and now here, at last, they bring their analysis to its devastating conclusion. Every time an emotional note is hit, I remembered “Oh yeah, there’s another case to solve.”
They’ve also greatly contracted the scope too. Whereas, the books tend to give POVs from a wide variety of police officers, this one shrinks its scope to the two greatest characters: the familiar Martin Beck and the incomparable Gunvald Larsson. It gives us a chance to say goodbye to them.
Larsson will be remembered more easily of course, his misanthropic personality and hatred of his fellow officers and the system they uphold make him the series most iconic character. But let us pour one out for Beck too because his person is all the writers have been trying to show us the whole time: it takes patience, understanding and empathy to make a society work. Sometimes it comes in the most banal of packages, like now. The press hails Beck as the savvy detective. The reader knows otherwise. His humanity, imperfectly expressed, gives these stories the depth that makes them great.
I’m so sad this journey is over, and went out on such a high note. I will miss it. There’s simply nothing else like it.