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The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjöwall
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The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (1966)

by Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, Per Wahlöö

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Martin Beck (2)

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English (17)  Swedish (2)  Danish (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Combining the everyday drudgery of police detective work with the daily life of a police detective who has a hard time making the two fit together was, according to the notes, a departure for the genre in the 1960s. Certainly this novel, interesting if low key, is far from the English parlour detectives or the hardboiled American ones. By comparison with the flawed detectives of modern fiction, this is a slow, even plodding, story, although filled with detail that seems typical for the times. The procedural and psychological detail gives the story interest, in spite of its lack of action. Instead of a gruelling cross-examination, for example, the detectives sit in the suspect’s room for half an hour saying nothing, as the suspect grows increasingly nervous and finally accepts that he has to explain what he did. Since most criminals are not masterminds, I think that is a more likely outcome in the circumstances than the notion of a criminal toying with the detectives, leaving clues or holding out until the lawyer comes to save him.
I thought the homey details were interesting – ironically, except for the place names, the Stockholm scenes could have been taking place in London or its suburbs. However, the picture of Budapest, an urbane tourist destination even under the Stalinist regime of the 1960s, with an efficient and helpful police department, was slightly surprising (possibly because of the authors’ Marxist interests). They make Budapest seem more attractive than Stockholm, which perhaps it is.
Another reflection of the authors’ Marxist thinking lies in the crime and the perpetrators. There are no clever criminals here, just an unlikeable victim who got pretty much what he deserves, and a bunch of ordinary, competent people who get caught up in some unplanned violence. This is what the vast majority of crime involves. The attention that crime writers give to masterminds and elites reflects their own job as entertainers, and I do find it absurd and a little tiresome when improbable criminals are the main focus of crime writing. Interestingly, a theme in some modern crime fiction is not so much the elites committing crimes against each other, but the crimes perpetrated through pharmaceutical or industrial companies to generate wealth for the elites. Such stories, however, reflect a contemporary sentiment of mistrust against corporate elites rather than a mistrust of the corporate system. Sjöwall and Wahlöö seem to be more interested in exploring the circumstances of realistic crime and how decent, self-respecting police officers respond to it.
It will be interesting to see what themes they develop in their other novels. ( )
  rab1953 | Jun 9, 2014 |
A very enjoyable read. A journalist from Sweden goes missing in mid-1960s Budapest. Martin Beck must travel there on the behest of the foreign service department to see what happened to the man who went up in smoke - disappeared from his hotel with his luggage and passport still there. Good police procedural - but it is the writing and the characters that stick with you, rather than the plot. ( )
  stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
Poetess Sowell and her husband wrote a series of ten detective stories featuring police inspector Martin Beck. They have been well translated from the Swedish and are delightful. In this, the third of the series, Beck has abruptly been recalled from his vacation by his chief to investigate the strange disappearance in Budapest of a journalist. Afraid they might have another Wallenberg case on their hands, the Swedish Foreign Office has asked the Swedish police to begin an investigation – unofficially, of course. Beck flies off to Budapest where he is followed by the police, propositioned by a woman who claims not to have known the missing man, and where he generally stumbles around having no clue as to how to begin the investigation. The local police pretend to be unconcerned about the disappearance. The inspector becomes intrigued by the growing puzzle. Finally his poking around provokes an attempt on his life, the would-be assassins are caught, they know of the missing man and the case begins to come together. The writing in Sowells books reminds me very much of the great Maigret stories by George Simenon, one of my favorite authors. These are extremely enjoyable mysteries. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
I started the Martin Beck series about a year ago because it’s inspired so many other Swedish authors, and it’s turned into one of my favorite series, which is surprising because I tend to read more contemporary books with strong female protagonists. This series, so far, does not meet those criteria, but I don’t mind.

Like the first book in the series Roseanna, the title character is a mystery to Martin Beck and his investigatory team, but unlike Roseanna, the case starts as a missing persons case instead of a murder case. Beck is asked to pursue an unofficial investigation into the disappearance of a journalist named Alf Mattson who was last seen in Budapest. Beck cuts short his family vacation at a remote, phone-less island in Sweden with his family to travel to Budapest, and the Budapest section of the book is very interesting. It’s a vivid setting and a memorable atmosphere as Beck is followed by mysterious people during his time there. I don’t want to discuss the plot more because it’s such a brief novel. The only parts of the story that dated the novel, besides the trip to communist-era Hungary, were mentions of Dacron clothing, going to see James Bond films, and the prevalent smoking.

Finally, I have a couple reactions to the writing. It feels strange to call a book that’s almost fifty years old fresh, but it feels brisk and crisp to me even though the investigation takes time. I think the brief chapters as well as the shift of the action from Stockholm to Budapest keep the story moving along. Finally, it’s remarkable to me that Sjöwall and Wahlöö alternated writing chapters because it’s not obvious to me that the novel was written by two people. The tone and style seem uniform to me.

Other reviews appear in Crimepieces, Smithereens, and Mysteries in Paradise.
  rkreish | Jul 3, 2013 |
A Swedish journalist, Alf Matsson, has gone missing in Budapest and Martin Beck is asked to go and investigate and try to locate or discern what happened to him. Having only a month long vacation on a remote island with his wife and children to look forward to, Beck readily accepts the case and after a quick investigation of the events prior to the journalist's departure he's soon following in Matsson's footsteps by jetting off to Hungary. Initial enquiries seem to lead nowhere and it's not long before it all seems like a complete waste of time. But why is someone following him around everywhere he goes?

Budapest gives a great setting allowing the reader to dissect the character of Martin Beck while he struggles to be enthused by this new investigation. Later in the story we get to see more of the teamwork and camaraderie that was shown in the first book, Roseanna, as well as the dogged nature of the policework involved in actually solving a case like this. It's quite a low-key, almost meandering, plot and those who want a wham! bam! thank you, ma'am approach to their crime novels will probably be disappointed but for those looking for a series that develops it's leading characters as it progresses then you could do a lot worse than this one.

My copy of the book came with a nice little introduction by Val McDermid and features about the book and on the authors (including a Q&A) and an if you liked this then you might like... snippet too. Well translated by Joan Tate. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | May 7, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maj Sjöwallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wahlöö, Permain authorall editionsconfirmed
Wahlöö, Permain authorall editionsconfirmed
Binder, Hedwig M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bjarne NielsenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deutsch, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engen, BodilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holt, Heleen tenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jehnich, Dagmar-RenateTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maas, Hans-JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Obregón, Enrique deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tate, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307390489, Paperback)

The masterful second novel in the Martin Beck series of mysteries by the internationally renowned crime writing duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, finds Beck searching for a well-known Swedish journalist who has disappeared without a trace.Inspector Martin Beck of the Stockholm Homicide Squad has his summer vacation abruptly terminated when the top brass at the foreign office pack him off to Budapest to search for Alf Matsson, a well-known Swedish journalist who has vanished. Beck investigates viperous Eastern European underworld figures and--at the risk of his life--stumbles upon the international racket in which Matsson was involved. With the coolly efficient local police on his side and a predatory nymphet on his tail, Beck pursues a case whose international implications grow with each new clue.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:45 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Stockholm Homicide Squad's Inspector Martin Beck is assigned to search for Alf Matsson, a vanished Swedish journalist, and finds himself becoming involved in an international racket that leads him to some enigmatic Eastern European underworld figures.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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