miércoles, 29 de septiembre de 2010

The Laughing Policeman

The Laughing Policeman [Den skrattande polisen] (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2009)
by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö [translated from the Swedish by Alan Blair]
Sweden, 1968

Considering it's taken me nearly a full year to recover from that lumbering, overwrought, 1,124-page historical fiction hissy fit otherwise known as the Kristin frickin' Lavransdatter trilogy, I'm happy to report that all Scandinavian novelists not named Sigrid Undset and I are finally back on speaking terms after my long-overdue introduction to the Sjöwall/Wahlöö wife/husband crime-writing duö.  It's about time.  Although The Laughing Policeman may be (no, is) a little lacking in the writing pyrotechnics department compared to other works I've been reading of late, this fourth volume in the highly-regarded Swede police procedural series featuring detective Martin Beck more than makes up for it with a taut, stripped down tale focusing on the investigation into a mass murder on a Stockholm bus.  The novel's just expertly paced.  Other things I thought were kind of cool:  Sjöwall and Wahlöö, both Marxists from what I understand, work in at least two jabs at "consumer society" during the otherwise no-nonsense telling of their three-umlauts story.  In other words, the expected genre grittiness is accompanied by a different vibe than usual here.  Things I didn't think were kind of cool: Nothing, really.  However, it's kind of depressing to be reminded that the scientific study of mass murderers and sex crimes was still in its infancy in the '60s.  Is the world really all that much more evil today or does it only seem so?  Whatever, easily the "weakest" thing I've read all month and yet still entertaining enough to induce me to sacrifice the dinner part of my dinner break to see what happens at the end.  Yeah. (http://www.blacklizardcrime.com/)

Per Wahlöö (left) and Maj Sjöwall

9 comentarios:

  1. Ha, my inner 1/4 Norwegian is relieved to hear you haven't written us all off because of Undset, Richard! And those two umlaut-ed o's right in a row are hilarious.

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  2. I too just got a Scandinavian crime book to read "The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg, translated by Steven T. Murray. (Ha! I have umlauts too!) It must be something in the air....

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  3. *Emily: Bjork and Undset aside, I'm actually a very Scandinavian-friendly fellow (hence the liberty with the wisecracks). And of course, it's absolutely impossible to argue with double umlauts in such quick succession. What a name!

    *Jill: Now that the K Lav-induced reading embargo has been lifted, I look forward to reading all about your adventures with Scandinavian crime fiction. However, you'll note that my author team has three times as many umlauts as yours. Maybe you should try a little harder next time, my friend!

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  4. It's always great when you find a book that makes you want to forgo eating! ;) I haven't had the best luck with Swedish crime fiction, as I'm the only person in the world who isn't in love with Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy. I know there are other things out there though, so perhaps I'll give this series a try.

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  5. *Steph: Ha, I could certainly stand to find a few more "diet books" like this, that's for sure! I haven't read any of the Larsson trilogy yet, but I saw the first movie based on it (liked it) and then the follow-up as well (didn't care for it). In other words, not sure what to make of the Swede crime craze just yet. Cheers!

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  6. I tried one of their bookis and was less-than-thrilled with it.

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  7. *Guy: Although it wasn't my fave book ever, it was entertaining enough that I'd read another one by them easily. Cheers!

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  8. Do you know Ake Ewardson? For me one of the best. Crime that blends into literature, if you know what I mean. And of course Henning Mankell. I am even planning on learning Swedish to get a better feel. I haven't read SjöwallWahlöö. I think Läckberg must be very good too.
    Btw I discovered your blog through A Work in Progress.
    I enjoy it a lot because of the international choices and the tone of the reviews. Brushing up my Spanish won't do any harm either.

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  9. *Caroline: Don't/didn't know anything about Ewardson, but I'll add him to the list along with Mankell once I have some extra reading time. Thanks for the tip! Thanks, too, for the kind words about my blog--I'd rather read international than U.S. literature most of the time, so that focus won't change anytime soon. Hoping to read more Catalan, French and Italian lit in the next year, though. Cheers!

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