Re: RARA-AVIS: Maj Sj÷wall and Per Wahl÷÷'s Martin Beck series

From: Patrick King (
Date: 18 Apr 2009

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    Is anyone familiar with Maj Sj÷wall and Per Wahl÷÷'s Martin Beck series? Are they at all noirish, or are they more mainstream mystery? I know there are 10 novels in the series collectively titled THE STORY OF A CRIME. Does this mean that the individual novels are part of a larger single story arc or is the series title more symbolic than literal?


    Funny you should bring this up. Just finished ROSANNA, the first Martin Beck mystery. These stories are very noirish. The style is police procedural not unlike Ed McBain's. They're often gruesome and plots develop realistically, fate taking a hand on both sides, making the solution difficult. I thought Rosanna's solution was a bit choppy and sudden but it was their first effort and an excellent one at that. My favorites in series are COP KILLER, THE LOCKED ROOM, and THE MAN ON THE BALCONY.

    These books were written in Sweden during the 1960-70s. Nearly everyone who reads them notes, what is today, the unconventional political leanings occasionally expressed in these stories. If you were alive at that time, many people throughout the world held these views. I think their expression makes these stories temporal documents in the same way that Chandler and Hammett's evoke 1950 Los Angeles and 1930 San Francisco respectively. Maj Sj÷wall and Per Wahl÷÷ are perhaps the best crime writers who don't come from the North American continent. They certainly stand with the best Canadian and US writers.

    Patrick King


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