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The Martin Beck series - The Fire Engine…

The Martin Beck series - The Fire Engine That Disappeared (original 1969; edition 2007)

by Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö

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8012011,418 (3.8)37
Title:The Martin Beck series - The Fire Engine That Disappeared
Authors:Maj Sjöwall
Other authors:Per Wahlöö
Info:Fourth Estate (2007), Edition: (Reissue), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall (1969)

Recently added byKakiyama, bibliotecaperduta, Danyspike, private library, freetrader, tlund56, IrishHolger



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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Warning: this review contains spoilers


This is the Homicide Squad's most puzzling case yet -- a house explodes and it is determined that one of the victims of the subsequent fire was dead before the blaze began. Was he murdered, or did he commit suicide? Is there any connection with the suicide discovered earlier, where the dead man's apartment contained a note saying "Martin Beck"? What does Martin Beck have to do with this guy?

This was a pretty good case. The detectives are still working through the aftermath of The Laughing Policeman, which makes the series feel more realistic. Most of the detectives get at least one chapter to highlight their day-to-day lives and thought processes. My favourite is probably calm, methodical Melander, who knows his and others' limitations and works around them to produce fantastic results. As for Martin Beck, his personal life continues to barely hold together. His daughter is leaving home and his son is a bump on a log. His daughter suggests that he move out, too -- it hasn't escaped her notice that her parents don't get along very well. What will Martin Beck do?

Overall I am calling this a 3.5 -- the case was interesting, with a resolution I certainly couldn't predict, and some amusing asides. It might have been a 4-star read with fewer (read as: zero) mentions of nipples and instances of witnesses offering to have sex with policemen. The scene with Mänsson in particular was uncomfortable to contemplate. Granted, there are far more explicit books out there, but for me sex in a police procedural is almost always going to be gratuitous, because it is not solving the mystery. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Aug 31, 2016 |
The fifth in the Martin Beck series sees the Chief Inspector take much more of a back-seat role as the latest investigation unfolds. Gunvald Larsson decides to check on a surveillance mission he's in charge of and offers temporary relief to the young policeman on watch. So not even supposed to be there, it's just his luck that the house converted into apartments suddenly explodes. Larsson manages to save several people from the property that is readily becoming engulfed in flame but there are three that don't manage to escape the inferno. One of which is the petty criminal that was the object of the surveillance in the first place. Initial investigations suggest a suicide by this very man much to Larsson's consternation who, after a short spell in hospital due to concussion, decides to take matters into his own hands and pursue enquiries on his own.

This instalment focuses more on the team around Martin Beck and offers glimpses into their personal lives and motivations as well as the social commentary of Sweden at the time these books are set (late sixties/early seventies) that this series has become known for. Again it is the painstaking work of the detectives involved that help to progress the investigation, following all of the clues even if they're heading nowhere. There is no quick fix or momentary flashes of brilliance that help solve the case. Instead it's the knocking on doors, finding the right people, asking the right question and sifting through the clues that will get them to the right outcome. If you want your crime fix to be thrill a minute then you should look elsewhere but if you like a well plotted police procedural then you could do a lot worse than picking up this series. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | Aug 5, 2016 |
This fifth novel in the series continues the gradual process of building up a bleak, composite view of the failures of 60s/70s Swedish society whilst deglamourising police work, and at the same time pokes a little fun at one of the favourite tricks of technically sophisticated detective fiction, the death that looks as though it could equally well have been murder, suicide or accident. Sjöwall and Wahlöö take it a step further by providing us with deaths that seem to fall into more than one of these categories at once. And a title that looks like a complete red herring but might not be... ( )
  thorold | Oct 30, 2015 |
Okay story. Not my favorite. ( )
  KeishonT | Oct 8, 2015 |
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö are not only the grandparents of the Scandinavian crime novel, but there 10-volume series of novels (known in English, somewhat misleadingly as the “Martin Beck” series) pretty much (with some influence from Ed McBains 87th Precinct series) defined the shape of contemporary police procedurals.

What the series basically does is to combine social realism with the mystery novel – it takes an unflinching look at Swedish society from the early sixties to the early seventies, a look that becomes increasingly tinged with bitterness as a supposedly welfare state lets go more and more of its promise to build a better future for everyone, and instead continues to privilege the rich and powerful. Which would be very depressing stuff, if it wasn’t made readable, enjoyable even (to some degree at least) by the mystery plot that keeps readers turning the pages even as they are confronted with a sheer endless parade of human misery and mean-spiritedness. Formally considered, this is very 19th century, as Sjöwall / Wahlöö use mystery in very much the same way as Dickens or Zola used melodrama, and I would not be at all surprised if that was a tradition they intentionally decided to place themselves in.

The Fire Engine that Disappeared is the fifth volume in the series, and it continues its general trend to become increasingly focused on the character’s private lives and on giving a picture of Swedish society at the time. There is more space given to the character’s concerns outside of their police job than before, and the narrative is even more de-centralized, Martin Beck becoming almost a minor figure as the novel follows his colleagues Larsson and Kollberg as well as Mansson from Malmö and newcomer Skane. That emphasizes one of the distinguishing features of this series, the utter ordinariness of its protagonists which are not only not outstandingly good-looking or intelligent, but frequently not even particularly good policemen, but just civil servants that do their job without any particular enthusiasm and who get results not so much by brilliant deduction than by luck or sheer dogged persistence.

The latter is particularly ironic if one considers how many of the cases could just as well have occurred in a classical mystery novel. While the puzzle element is not as strong here as in the previous novel, the investigators find themselves confronted by the corpse of someone who apparently committed suicide as well as being murdered. The Fire Engine that Disappeared takes its time in solving the crime, both in that the investigations span several months and in that the novel is not what anyone would call a page-turner. It’s not slow either, however, but moves along at a steady, comfortable speed, giving readers the chance to take in the scenery along that way, as bleak as that proves to be. And it’s precisely this view of the scenery that will likely linger longest with the reader, Sjöwall/Wahlöö’s hard and uncompromising perspective on a welfare state coming apart (a perspective which I’m convinced they developed not in spite of but because of their Marxist views – something I might return to in a post on a later volume) will remain in most readers’ memory even when the details of the crime plot have faded.
1 vote Larou | Nov 13, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maj Sjöwallprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wahlöö, PerAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Öström, ArneCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bruna, DickCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dahmann, SusanneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deutsch, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engen, BodilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hodijk, W.M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, BjarneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Persson, Leif GWPréfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schulz, EckehardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tate, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zatti, RenatoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The man lying dead on the tidily made bed had first taken off his jacket and tie and hung them over the chair by the door.
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"The lightning-paced fifth novel in the Martin Beck mystery series by the internationally renowned crime writing duo, Maj Sj?owall and Per Wahl?o?o, finds Beck investigating one of the strangest, most violent, and unforgettable crimes of his career. The incendiary device that blew the roof off a Stockholm apartment not only interrupted the small, peaceful orgy underway inside, it nearly took the lives of the building's eleven occupants. And if one of Martin Beck's colleagues hadn't been on the scene, the explosion would have led to a major catastrophe because somehow a regulation fire-truck has vanished. Was it terrorism, suicide, or simply a gas leak? And what if, anything, did the explosion have to do with the peculiar death earlier that day of a 46-year-old bachelor whose cryptic suicide note consisted of only two words: "Martin Beck"?"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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