The Story of a Crime

by on July 24th, 2014
The Story of a Crime Cover Image

Many of you are fans of Scandinavian crime fiction such as Mankell’s Wallander, Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole and the girl with the dragon tattoo.  But if you haven’t discovered Martin Beck, it’s time.  There is a series of ten crime fiction written in the 60’s and early 70’s by a team of writers named Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö that are arguably the origin of modern police procedurals.  The side stories for the characters evolve over time, so it is best to read these in order. The books are well written and have a certain melancholy timbre that a lot of these Scandinavian crime stories seem to have.  They also have their own sense of time.  The stories will slow down to a crawl and you feel the long agonizing wait for some clue to surface.  Taking place in the 60’s, there is a Madmen-esque nature to the scenes as well.  LOTS of suits and smoking.  And being written in the 60’s, there is also an interesting leftist political thread that runs through the novels.  If you don’t happen to be a Marxist, that’s OK, the politics don’t get in the way of the stories.

The story behind the series is also intriguing.  [See this Guardian Article].   Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö were lovers and formed a family though they never married.  They planned and wrote all the stories together. They would trade chapters or sometimes take different characters. There were ten books over ten years, each book having thirty chapters.  They envisioned the ten novels as a cohesive set that together would tell the story of a larger crime: the decay of Swedish society.  The end of the series also coincided with the end of their relationship.  Per Wahlöö became terminally ill and died before the final book was published.

ICPL has the entire series in print, ebook and e-audio.

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