Roseanna by Sjowall and Wahloo

The first book in the classic Martin Beck detective series from the 1960s – the novels that shaped the future of Scandinavian crime writing. Hugely acclaimed, the Martin Beck series were the original Scandinavian crime novels and have inspired the writings of Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo. Written in the 1960s, 10 books completed in 10 years, they are the work of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo – a husband and wife team from Sweden.

Roseanna’ begins on a July afternoon, the body of a young woman is dredged from Sweden’s beautiful Lake Vattern. Three months later, all that Police Inspector Martin Beck knows is that her name is Roseanna, that she came from Lincoln, Nebraska, and that she could have been strangled by any one of eighty-five people. With its authentically rendered settings and vividly realized characters, and its command over the intricately woven details of police detection, ‘Roseanna’ is a masterpiece of suspense and sadness.(From Goodreads) 12104861

Honestly, I hadn’t heard of the book or the authors at all. I happened to come across it while browsing through the library and thought I’d give it a shot. I never realized Sjowall and Wahloo were such a big deal ! Their story is pretty amazing – it seems they wrote 10 novels in 10 years and would write alternate chapters through the night after putting their kids to bed.

As a novel, I would definitely recommend Roseanna but let me include a short note on the genre and style.

Roseanna is a “police procedural” which basically means that it is different from the usual crime fiction style of the crime, followed by introducing possible suspects, checking facts/alibis and finally the detective solving the case.

Here, the focus is more on how the police set about solving the crime when they have so little to work with. Like its mentioned in the blurb, she could have been murdered by any one of 85 people and here is the kicker – they were all tourists in Sweden ! So effectively the suspects are spread around the world and the concept of “alibis” doesn’t really apply here. Since it is about police work that takes place over years, the pace is slow but the interest remains high as they keep progressing towards their target.

There is also the occasional humour thrown in, some of which made me laugh out loud like this one where Beck’s colleague Kollberg reads out a statement from a tourist couple

“They had no idea that Sweden could be so nice. Damn it, I had no idea it could be either,’ continued Kollberg. ‘Of course the cabins were rather small and the second night – wait here is something – there was a big, hairy arachnida on the bed. Her husband had a great deal of trouble getting it out of the cabin. Well, does arachnida mean a sex maniac ?’

‘A spider,’ said Melander without taking his pipe put of his mouth.

‘I love the Danes,’ Kollberg continued.  

Give Roseanna a try ! 🙂

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