Monday, August 18, 2008

The Laughing Policeman - Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo

Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo are renowned detective / crime fiction writers from Sweden. As a team, they had written a series of 10 novels about the detectives of Swedish Police Force with a character Martin Beck in the lead. This is the 4th novel in the Martin Beck series by this Swedish crime writers, The Laughing Policeman was derived from the song with the same name by Charles Jolly. This novel was later made into a Hollywood movie ( the only one to be made a movie in Hollywood) re-planting the plot into San Francisco from Stockholm.

While the police force in Stockholm was trying to manage the agitation by anti-war demonstrators in front of the US Embassy, on a rainy evening ; when Martin Beck with his colleague Kollberg where tussling away on a game of chess, there was a brutal murder taking place in another part of Stockholm, where a gunman has killed 8 people of a bus ( including the driver) and seriously wounded another.

One of the passenger in the bus, was a fellow detective Stenstrom, who works under Martin Beck , who was sitting along side a nurse who was returning home presumably after work. All passengers were identified except one. The hope of getting some input from the injured person was also unsuccessful , as he did not survive the operation. But before that he managed to answer 'drnk' and 'koleson'. The question remained as what was Stenstrom doing in that bus and while Off-Duty, why was he carrying the gun with him ? Who was the lady seated next to him and what was their relation ? Who is the unidentified person ?

The story develops as we read typical to any crime novel and more and more information are revealed, without any real break through in the investigation. And as it happens in every detective fiction, there are enough twist and the clue of this murder is linked a previous unresolved murder mystery which happened 16 years back of one Portuguese nymphomaniac.
I haven't read many crime fictions to comment, but haven't seen many with a double murder investigation. That must be the reason for its popularity in Sweden as well as the other part of the world.

Critics says, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo are confirmed communists and all their writings have something to indicate this fact. The demonstration in front of the US Embassy was discussed as one of such example. I am not too sure. However, after many 'heavy readings' I find it immensely enjoyable and relaxing.

The Laughing Policeman
Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - Translated by Alan Blair
Harper Perennial
248 Pages

Other reads : Eurocrime

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