Archive for November 20, 2010

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Viktor Palmgren, a powerful businessman is dining at the Elite Hotel Savoy in Malmo with the managers of his varied companies. At the end of the meal as he begins to make a speech a man walks up to him, and shoots him in the head, sticks the weapon in his pocket, swings himself through an open window and steps down onto the pavement and then disappears.

The main suspect is not arrested at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport because the task of arresting him was given to that comedically lazy and incompetent pair of Keystone Kops, Karl Kristiansson and Kurt Kvant.
Martin Beck is therefore sent from Stockholm to Malmo, to join Per Mansson in conducting an investigation. The dinner guests are all interviewed, and as their lives are exposed we learn something about Swedish society.
Palmgren’s business practices and his involvement with dubious overseas organizations could mean a variety of people wanted him dead. The ludicrously incompetent Swedish secret service send an agent to Malmo, and he does not have a clue how to proceed.

This police procedural has a fairly simple plot, and is fairly short, but is a classic example of Sjowall/Wahloo’s superb technique.

Their message is crystal clear. Capitalism is evil because it benefits the rich and powerful while leaving ordinary people with nothing.

‘Gentlemen, the world of business is tough today. With the credit market in its present state there is no room for philanthropy or sentimentalism.’

Was this really written forty years ago?
But I think the main strength of the books is the author’s ability to create in a few lines characters that are so memorable. The reader is given almost the character’s entire back story in one brief paragraph. Here are two examples, firstly Gunvald Larsson;

‘This is my eldest brother,’ said the blonde. ‘Unfortunately. Gunvald’s his name. He’s a ………policeman. Before that he was just a thug. The last time I saw him was more than ten years ago, and even before that the times were few and far between.’

Then the young Benny Skacke:

He imagined himself coming up with the solution, tracking down and catching the murderer single -handed. He would be promoted, and after that the only direction would be up. He was close to becoming Chief of Police when a new ring on the phone interrupted his vision of the future.

Murder at the Savoy has been superbly translated by Joan Tate, and remains forty years after it was written a wonderful example of the police procedural.
The combination of social commentary and great characters is typical of this great ten book series, and makes reading each one such a supreme pleasure.

You can read two more reviews from Maxine at Eurocrime and Jose Ignacio at The Game’s Afoot.