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The Locked Room by Maj Sjowall

The Locked Room (original 1972; edition 1992)

by Maj Sjowall, Per Wahloo

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Title:The Locked Room
Authors:Maj Sjowall
Other authors:Per Wahloo
Info:Vintage (1992), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:read, mystery

Work details

The Locked Room by Maj Sjöwall (1972)

  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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English (12)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (14)
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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 |
I'm so glad that Vintage brought this series out again, with excellent introductions by distinguished writers of crime fiction. Not to be missed by any serious mystery reader. This one is nice and twisty. ( )
  DowntownLibrarian | Mar 21, 2013 |

The Locked Room presents a classic murder mystery scenario--a victim found inside a room securely locked from the inside. Classic Agatha Christie territory. To help ease Inspector Martin Beck, who has recovered from the gunshot wound that nearly killed him in the previous book, back into his job as chief inspector, the detectives he works with have saved this special case for him. This case is one a detective usually only gets a chance to read about.

Inspector Beck is not the sort of man who takes his work lightly, but his the case piques his curiosity so he takes it out of an honest desire to see police work done correctly and a desire to solve a classic murder. He finds that before he can begin true detective work, he must undo the shoddy job the local officers did before the case fell on his desk. For example, how is it the officers on the scene managed to convince the coroner the victim was a suicide by gunshot to the heart when no weapon was found inside the locked room?

While Detective Beck works his case, another group of detectives is investigating a recent string of bank robberies which have left one bystander dead. Through this group of inept detectives Ms. Sjowall and Mr. Wahloo present a biting critique of the Swedish police force of their day. These detectives are Keystone Cops. In one botched attempt to capture the bank robbers they break into a fifth floor apartment by charging full force into an unlocked front door which swings open at just the right moment resulting in the lead detective falling out an open window. He survives by hanging onto the ledge, legs flailing, while he waits for rescue.

Sjowall and Wahloo have been far from light-handed in their criticism of Sweden's police force up to now, but in The Locked Room they take their gloves off. Every opportunity to criticize the Swedish police is seized and exploited until the book begins to turn polemic. By the end of the novel, I began to feel sorry for the cops. Things couldn't possibly be as bad as the authors portray. Could they?

The Locked Room presents two alternatives for the Swedish police force: a highly competent dedicated detective determined to find the guilty party even if it costs him career advancement and a group of uneducated, slipshod, ruffians unable to function in anything but a comically incompetent fashion. At the top of the police force, a group of careerist politicians more concerned about Sweden's image than the lives of the country's citizens consistently fail to correct this situation. In a rather brilliant plot twist Martin Beck solves his case but fails to get the evidence needed to convict the killer due to police incompetence while the Keystone Cops investigating the bank robbery successfully point the finger at the wrong man who just happens to be the killer in Beck's case. The killer ends up serving a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit.

That's justice in Sweden circa 1973.

Here's hoping things have improved since then. ( )
1 vote CBJames | Jul 5, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maj Sjöwallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wahlöö, Permain authorall editionsconfirmed
Wahlöö, Permain 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)
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:41 -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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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