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

by Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö

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6961513,671 (3.83)26
Member:gaskella
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
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The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall (1969)

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English (13)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I bought two books of the Martin Beck series, The Man On The Balcony (TMOTB) and The Fire Engine That Disappeared (TFETD), and read them one after the other. Although many of the involved characters are the same the style of the books could hardly be more different.

The Man On The Balcony burns on a slow, consistent, fuse, a Catherine Wheel of a book, whereas The Fire Engine That Disappeared fizzes like a Jumping Jack never sure of which way it will go next.
Each has its merits, though as a matter of preference and enjoyment TMOTB had the edge for me.

Each book is set in 60s Stockholm and any reader who imagines paedophilia, hard core drugs, promiscuity, street crime, and the like are recent phenomenon in society may be somewhat suprised to read just how prevalent they are in 60s city life, which makes the books seems very contemporary.

Though TFETD ventures further afield with significant references to France and Denmark especially and a plot which embraces the beginnings of cross border terrorism and gang warfare, the evocative scenes and action of TMOTB are concentrated in well defined districts of the city and the book is highly personalised and quietly emotive in documenting the hunt for a predatory child killer.
In TMOTB, Beck and his motley crew of detective colleagues languish over the evidence having already dismissed unknowingly a crucial lead. The bad luck is almost repeated at the end only for chance to play a part in resolving the case, though painstaking research ensured this time the chance was not passed up. TMOTB is a comfortable though melancholy read which is extremely believable.
TFETD picks up the Beck series a little further down the line and the first notable aspect is the changed relationships between the various detectives, being more fractious and weary with each other. The plot is a complicated and convoluted one and in the end I found I was confused as to quite who was who and where the pieces fitted. I finished the book not really able to recall the various criminal intrigues which lead to a house fire in which a seemingly petty criminal was killed, and then to the finale and fate of the mastermind.
So, very different writing styles, each worthy, each thoroughly researched and well crafted, I enjoyed TMOTB and was a little less enamoured with TFETD but would understand how another reader may take an opposite view. ( )
  DekeDastardly | May 23, 2012 |
THE FIRE ENGINE THAT DISAPPEARED is a perfect illustration of the concept that solving homicide cases is a mixture of accumulating evidence through painstaking and methodical sleuthing with flashes of intuition. In any investigative team the role of some will be the sleuthing, but it will often be the intuition that solves the case. The problem is that without the painstaking sleuthing little intuition is possible, and the accumulation of evidence is often necessary to both break the perpetrator and for for successful prosecution to take place. There is also often a problem in getting all the essential information into one brain. It takes all kinds to form a good team of detectives: plods, cynics, workaholics, as well as those who carefully compartmentalise their lives. Successful resolution requires testing theories, discarding those that don't fit, following the occasional red herring, and often, as in this case a long passage of time. The threads that make up a case often first present separately but as the plot develops they begin to converge.

One of the things that this novel clearly shows too is that each of the team has a private life. In THE FIRE ENGINE THAT DISAPPEARED Martin Beck's marriage appears to be on the point of collapse. This seems to be something so common to the modern detective that we almost take it for granted.

The Martin Beck series was written in the late 1960s and now five decades later we can still appreciate how cleverly they were constructed. ( )
  smik | Oct 5, 2011 |
For a book published in 1970 this book wears surprisingly well. The book has just enough mystery, detective work, characterization, and most of all humor to sustain it throughout. I have not read any other books in this series, and was amused by the humor in it. Some parts of it had me laughing out loud. However, the humor in no way detracts from the story line. This book made me want to know more about this homicide detective team. ( )
  benitastrnad | Oct 5, 2011 |
The fifth book in the Martin Beck series, The Fire Engine that Disappeared, lives up to the standards set by the previous novels. Ms. Sjowall and Mr. Wahloo are among the best at what they do, no question about it. However, I still felt something of a slump, a sense of going through the motions, that I did not feel in any of the earlier books.

There's nothing remarkable this time around. The story begins with a mass murder just like The Laughing Policeman, book four, did. There is a hint that a police officer might be involved when Martin Beck's name is found written on a note pad in one victim's room, just as a police officer was one of the victims in book four. At first there are no clues, just like in all the previous books. A handful of capable police detectives work the case among the usual assortment of blunderers. There is another young officer looking for his chance to shine.

It's all very well done, there's just this nagging sense that it has been done just as well before .

Repetition and formula are part of the pleasure readers get from a mystery series. That you know what to expect and that you get what you expect are both part of the deal. The previous novels kept this part of the bargain, then delivered the extras that made them stand out as better than average. The Fire Engine that Disappeared attempts this by making Martin Beck a minor character in favor of other detectives. While these other characters are all well done, they didn't push the series to new heights. I fear a plateau has been reached. A high plateau, but a plateau none-the-less. ( )
  CBJames | Jul 17, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maj Sjöwallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wahlöö, Permain authorall editionsconfirmed
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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