Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: The Man Who Went Up In Smoke by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

The worst of it was that, deep down within himself, he knew that he had not been guided by any kind of impulse at all. It was just his policeman’s soul—or whatever it might be called—that had started to function. It was the same instinct that made Kollberg sacrifice his time off—a kind of occupational disease that forced him to take on all assignments and do his best to solve them.

The Man Who Went Up In Smoke begins with Inspector Martin Beck taking a well-deserved vacation with his family. Of course, the reader knows ahead of Beck that with twenty-nine chapters to go, he can kiss his vacation goodbye. Beck’s superiors call him back to the office and then send him to Hungary to search for a missing journalist named Alf Matsson. After initally being followed and verbally roughed up by the local police, he gains their respect as he searches the criminal underbelly of their country. Eventually his search makes him wonder if Matsson ever entered Hungary.

The Martin Beck stories, written with authentic detail, are known for changing the rules of police procedurals. Maybe that's true, but, for me, the joy of reading this novel was the way in which the lead character is drawn. Like Marlowe or Archer, Beck is a complex character that I enjoyed spending time with and find myself wanting to learn more.

There are only ten books which means I will probably take my time reading them over the next several years. For most of you, this series is probably far from forgotten and now I can say the same.

After I finished reading this over the holidays, I noticed Sarah Weinman at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind was reading this book also. For her take on it, check out her post.

Plus: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/sjowall.htm

Click here for more Friday's Forgotten Books on Patti Abbott's site.

12 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Martin Beck is my favorite all-time police inspector.

ARCHAVIST said...

I'm unaware of this one and the link added more flavour. THANKS

Jacob Weaver said...

I'd never heard of this series but Beck sounds like my kinda guy. I will add this to my list. Thanks!

Randy Johnson said...

The Laughing Policeman is the only title that has stuck in my mind, but I did read a few of the series many years ago and enjoyed them. That title just always brings a smile to my face.

David Cranmer said...

Patti, I have become an instant fan and am looking forward to picking up the next book. I was amazed to learn each author wrote alternating chapters. If I didn't know, I would've assumed it was written one person... seamless.

Archavist, Since I'm not a reviewer by nature, I found these other posts very helpful too!

Jacob, Definitely check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Randy, I remember watching The Laughing Policeman starring Walter Matthau years ago. I liked it at the time so it may be worthwhile taking a second look.

Scott Parker said...

Police procedural books are one area of crime fiction that I intend to focus on in 2009. I hope it helps my second book come along. Never heard of this character but, with your write-up and Patti's praise, he is now on The List

Charles Gramlich said...

Nope, I haven't read these either. Another author to check out. My list grows and grows.

David Cranmer said...

Scott/Charles, Based on this first book I've read you can't go wrong with this series.

Barbara Martin said...

I have never heard of this book or the author, and now after your review it's going on my TBR list. Thanks for a great review, David.

David Cranmer said...

Barbara, I guess this book was a good choice for a FFB. I was a little worried I had picked a too well known title.

Sarah Hina said...

The best characters are the ones who leave us wanting more. Because they're so richly drawn that we know there's much more to be discovered, if they'd only let us completely in.

I'll admit to being clueless about a lot of these authors you mention, David, but I always enjoy reading your enthusiasm for them.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks Sarah! Some of these books and authors are new to me also. Sometimes (like with this one)I just grabbed a book off the shelf because it's unknown to me. Most of the time this system works well.