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The Locked Room by Maj Sjöwall
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The Locked Room (1972)

by Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Martin Beck (8)

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7501612,394 (3.76)22
  1. 00
    Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (ehines)
    ehines: For an American like I am, Sweden is an almost mythical land--a sort of soft-porn socialist paradise. Both these books let you in on a very different side of Sweden. More real, but not offputting.
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» See also 22 mentions

English (14)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Maybe even 4.5 stars! While the locked room part of the mystery was not as clever as John Dickson Carr's, it was a great backdrop to Martin Beck's recovery (from his injury in the previous book) and Sjowall & Wahloo did a great job entwining it with the series of bank robberies that Kollberg and others are investigating.

But what really lifts this police procedural from above average to excellent is the look at 1971 Sweden that we get and the snide comments about bureaucracy (and the District Attorney is a wonderful character in this sense!). And the irony of the ending was also satisfying despite the fact that generally I don't like it when the guilty person escapes detection. In this case though, Mauritzon gets convicted for a bank robbery & shooting he didn't do but was exonerated for the murder he actually committed! ( )
1 vote leslie.98 | Jul 20, 2015 |
By the time they reach the eighth volume of their run, most successful series will have found their rhythm and settled into their groove, chugging along at a comfortable speed along well-known rails. And there is nothing wrong with what, especially in genre literature which by definition exists to retread familiar ground and to provide its readers with the comfort of knowing what to expect – while, of course, still keeping things fresh and interesting; to achieve that balance is what makes good genre literate (and fail it either way you will end up with something that is either boring or no longer genre).

However, it has been clear from very early on in their series of police procedurals that Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö are aiming for more than just good genre literature, that their ambition actually runs towards redefining the genre; and so it is no surprise that they keep experimenting with its boundaries even this far into their series. In The Locked Room they do that by opening the genre borders towards another genre, namely that of satire.

Sjöwall and Wahlöö always have shown a sense of humour, and that humour has always leaned towards the trenchant, but in this novel, in particular in the scenes featuring the task force on bank robbery and its leader “Bulldozer" Olsen. Those scenes are not only extremely funny, but they are also a well-aimed critique of the way the Swedish police apparatus is functioning, or more precisely, malfunctioning, thus taking up the thread from the previous volume. The spectacle the task force is offering, as ludicrous and laugh-aloud funny as it is, is not simply a Swedish version of the Keystone Cops – there is a reason why the authors start the first meeting of the task force with an essay-like passage analysing what and why is wrong with the police in Sweden, and only after that prelude has placed it in a context unleash all their savage humour. The police’s incompetence is again emphasized by contrasting it – another novelty for the series – a large amount of chapters from the viewpoint of the criminals, who turn out to be just as average and mostly normal as their police counterparts – only considerably better at their job, which gives occasion for even more satire.

At the same time as they are playing with genre limits in the bankrobbing thread of the novel, Sjöwall and Wahlöö – in a typical, highly ironical counter-move – follow a parallel thread, centred around the freshly returned Martin Beck, which tackles the most clichéd of mystery problems, namely the locked room puzzle. I strongly suspect that already at the time The Locked Room was written, no crime writer who wanted to be taken seriously would have dared touch this kind of mystery, and Sjöwall and Wahlöö not only tackle it full-on, but even name their novel after it. And of course there are some policemen who read crime fiction in their spare time, who remark on how the case could have come straight out of a mystery novel, and who thus introduce some light metafictional element into The Locked Room – an element that I doubt was very frequent in crime novels of the day, so that Sjöwall and Wahlöö manage to give even that most classical of puzzles a genre-expanding twist.
1 vote Larou | Mar 3, 2015 |
I dimostranti peroravano la causa della pace e venivano abbattuti con la violenza; armati solo di cartelli e delle proprie convinzioni, venivano affrontati con gas lacrimogeni, idranti e manganelli di gomma. Quasi tutte le manifestazioni non violente si tramutavano in tumulti e caos. La gente che cercava di difendersi veniva maltrattata ed arrestata. Poi veniva accusata di lesioni o di resistenza a pubblico ufficiali […] ( )
  gfonte | Mar 15, 2014 |
So: the famous Martin Beck series.

Hmm. Well, I must say it starts well, and when Beck himself's on stage, especially when he's actually doing something, this hums along quite nicely.

The problem with the book, though, is that it's far too often used as a soap box for pseudo-political passages on, say, the Swedish welfare system, problems facing police recruitment, etc. etc.

And the heavy-handed keystone kops style humour in places, while not unamusing, might find a more comfortable home in another novel.

Perhaps a function of the famed dual-authorship of this series? Whatever the reason, before long I found myself plodding, then skimming, then abandoning. A shame: I expected better. Is there a particularly good one I should have started with? ( )
  jtck121166 | Feb 12, 2014 |
From the window he had a view out over an immense hole in the ground - out of which the gigantic showy building of the National Police Board would in due course rise up and obscure the view. From this ultramodern colossus in the heart of Stockholm the police would extend their tentacles in every direction and hold the dispirited citizens of Sweden in an iron grip. At least some of them. They couldn't all emigrate or commit suicide.

On his return to work 15 months after being shot, Martin Beck is broken in gently by being assigned the case of a man found dead of a gunshot wound in a locked room with no gun anywhere to be found. Beck's colleagues Kollberg and Larsson have been assigned to a special bank robberies squad under district attourney Bulldozer Olsson.

The police are demoralised, undermanned and riven by politics, and they make some big errors in their investigations, but it is rather amusing how characters come in pairs with matching names. As well as the police patrolmen Kristiansson and Kvastmo, there are the Swedish bank robbers Malmström and Mauser and the German bank robbers Hoff and Hauser. ( )
  isabelx | Dec 19, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maj Sjöwallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wahlöö, Permain authorall editionsconfirmed
Austin, Paul BrittenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berf, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bouquet, PhilippeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Connelly, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engen, BodilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
García-Posada, EldaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hiroshi, TakamiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoff, TrulsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jalonen, KariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jansz, UllaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jørgensen, Grete JuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maass, Hans-JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nesser, HåkanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olszańska, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rak, JanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vrtišová, JiřinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weiner, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yang, YongfanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zatti, RenatoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zhdanova, L. L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The bells of St Maria struck two as she came out from the metro station on Wollmar Yxkullsgatan.

(translation by Paul Britten Austin, 1973)
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Insurance companies have one urgent task: to earn as much money as possible. So they keep their personnel up to their ears in work. For the same reason they keep all their documents in apple-pie order, in a constant panic that someone may swindle them and gnaw unpunished into their profits. Nowadays this mad working tempo had tended to become an end in itself: "Impossible, we haven't got the time."
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Original title: Det slutna rummet
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Possibly one of the most unattractive covers on a book I have ever seen... and irrelevant to the story too!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679742220, Paperback)

A woman robs a bank. A corpse is found shot through the heart in a room locked from within--no firearm in sight. To the eerily intuitive Inspector Martin Beck, these seemingly disparate cases are facets of the same puzzle, and solving it is of vital importance.   Only by finding our what happened in the locked room can Beck--haunted by a near-fatal bullet wound and the demise of a soulless marriage--escape from an airtight prison of his own.

From its classic premise, The Locked Room accelerates into an engrossing novel of the mind. Exploring the ramifications of egotism and intellect, luck and accident, and set against the backdrop of the inspired deductions and monstrous errors of Martin Beck and the Stockholm Homicide Squad, this tour de force of detection bears the unmistakable substance and gravity of real life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:15 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The mysterious shooting of a man found dead in a locked room sends Martin Beck searching for clues through Sweden.

» see all 3 descriptions

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