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Laughing Policeman [Hardcover]

Maj Sjowall , Per Wahloo , Alan Blair
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 1 1993
The fourth book in the classic Martin Beck detective series from the 1960s - the novels that shaped the future of Scandinavian crime writing. Hugely acclaimed, the Martin Beck series were the original Scandinavian crime novels and have inspired the writings of Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo. Written in the 1960s, 10 books completed in 10 years, they are the work of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo - a husband and wife team from Sweden. They follow the fortunes of the detective Martin Beck, whose enigmatic, taciturn character has inspired countless other policemen in crime fiction; without his creation Ian Rankin's John Rebus or Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander may never have been conceived. The novels can be read separately, but are best read in chronological order, so the reader can follow the characters' development and get drawn into the series as a whole. On a cold and rainy Stockholm night, nine bus riders are gunned down by an unknown assassin. The press, anxious for an explanation for the seemingly random crime, quickly dubs him a madman. But Martin Beck of the Homicide Squad suspects otherwise: this apparently motiveless killer has managed to target one of Beck's best detectives - and he, surely, would not have been riding that lethal bus without a reason. With its wonderfully observed lawmen, its brilliantly rendered felons and their murky Stockholm underworld, and its deftly engineered plot, 'The Laughing Policeman' has long been recognised as a classic of the police procedural.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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In this classic police procedural, the ever-dyspeptic Martin Beck has nothing to be amused about, even though it's Christmastime. Åke Stenstrom, a young detective in Beck's squad, has just been killed in an unprecedented mass murder aboard a Stockholm city bus. Was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or did he push a murderer too far in his efforts to make a name for himself on the force? Realizing that Stenstrom's presence on the bus was no mere coincidence, his compatriots retrace his steps and chase years-old clues to a crime long thought unsolvable. Along with Roseanna, this is one of the best of Sjöwall and Wahlöö's ten Martin Beck mysteries. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'I've read "The Laughing Policeman" six or eight times. Each time I reach the final twist on the final page, I shiver afresh.' Jonathan Franzen 'Tantalizing...the splendid story of an apparently motiveless crime.' New York Times Book Review 'An influential police procedural with a precision-engineered plot that can grip and shock a reader...the plotting, pacing and characterisation are all exquisite: and the halting translation and the dated, just plain weird sexual politics somehow seem only to make it more compelling.' Independent on Sunday 'For Beck, as with Maigret, each investigation is less a riddle to be answered than a human situation to be understood...it's all done with immense accomplishment. A welcome addition to the Martin Beck casebook.' Matthew Coady, Guardian 'They changed the genre. Whoever is writing crime fiction after these novels is inspired by them in one way or another.' Henning Mankell 'If you haven't read Sjowall/Wahloo, start now.' Sunday Telegraph 'Pick up one book...and you become unhinged. You want to block out a week of your life, lie to your boss, and stay in bed, gorging on one after another.' Observer --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Swedish Version of "NYPD Blue" April 21 2002
Format:Paperback
Sweden meets "NYPD Blue" in this non-action-packed police detective mystery by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. All of the action of "The Laughing Policeman" seems to take place before the book even begins. At the start of the book we learn that a terrible crime has been committed, nine passengers have been shot dead on a public bus in the streets of Stockholm. In light of the current events that have recently taken place in the U.S., it is ironic that the Swedish detectives on the case speak of how strange the crime is, stating that such a crime would more likely be seen on U.S. soil. The reader gains a good knowledge of the city of Stockholm, its streets, its people, its dark side, as the detectives leave no stone unturned in their search for the killer. Yet, while the characters are busy searching all over the city, we, the readers, are busy exploring the depths of the characters themselves. Each character has many interesting distinctions and, much like the way the details of the crime are slowly unraveled, different facets of the characters involved are revealed as the novel progresses. It almost seems, at times, that the novel is more about the detectives and their lives than it is about solving the crime at hand. It comes across as a kind of police detective television show where there is always a crime to be solved, but people really watch the show just to see what will happen in the characters' personal lives. Overall, a good mystery, with an exciting conclusion, but perhaps more for the "NYPD Blue" fan, than the "Murder She Wrote" type.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Laughing Policeman April 8 2002
Format:Paperback
While "The Laughing Policeman" ostensibly focuses on Sjowall and Wahloo's protagonist Martin Beck, the book truly gains its appeal not solely through the depiction of Beck, but rather through the colorful cast of all the policemen involved in this mystery of a busload of citizens and one policeman murdered, seemingly without motive. Sjowall and Wahloo are not only skilled at character development, however. The pleasure I got from meeting and getting to know each of their idiosyncratic policemen was only surpassed by seeing each of their methods and discoveries coming together to finally solve the case (whose solution, itself, brilliantly comes through the examination of a policeman's character). Every time the narrative found a new policeman to follow, I found myself wishing that this one had been the protagonist. And while I occasionally found myself confused by the names of the characters and places of the story (I admit to being a novice regarding Sweden and Swedish), I found Wahloo/Sjowall's depiction of 1968 Stockholm as a dark, dreary city full of criminal elements and lacking any innocents on a par with the literary Londons, New Yorks, and Los Angeleses of the world. Despite being more of a police procedural, concerned with the details of the case, rather than a Sherlock Holmes-style case with an explosive surprise ending, "The Laughing Policeman" kept me interested both in its characters and its story up until the last page. I'd recommend it to anyone as a good read, and especially to fans of the police procedural.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rough Brand of Justice March 19 2002
Format:Paperback
The 1960?s were riotous and pivotal years in both the United States and Europe. This police procedural starring Martin Beck, the notable detective and superintendent of the Stockholm Homicide Squad, captures the political and social unrest of a nation and the world at a time of both great loss and possibility.
The scene is Stockholm, Sweden. ?The time was three minutes past eleven on the evening of the thirteenth of November, 1967? (8). And while hundreds of demonstrators and policemen were finally breaking up outside the American embassy in response to the War in Vietnam, on the other side of town, ?eight murders and one attempted murder were committed in Stockholm? (5).
With their straightforward, frank approach to the detective novel, Sjowall and Wahloo launch the reader into the thick of the homicide squad?s tangled investigation of the worst mass murder in Sweden?s history. The detectives, led by Superintendent Martin Beck, involve themselves in the painstaking and tedious tasks of detection in their concerted attempt to discover the perpetrator of such a heinous act. In doing so, the reader glimpses the emotional predicament that such a life and line of work at this contentious time in history created for these men. They match the brute strength of the police force against the mob of the underworld, straining to preserve humanity in the face of the awful charge of solving a terrible crime.
Though in the end, intelligence and a rough justice do prevail, the final twist of the novel does not come until the final pages. Anyone fan of detective fiction will find themselves entranced by the unique combination of detective procedure and dry, black humor that resonates throughout the pages of this engrossing detective thriller.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compassionate glimpse into dehumanized officers April 11 2002
Format:Paperback
The Laughing Policeman will satisfy anyone searching for a classic crime novel with a truly original and engaging storyline, but the most satisfaction comes in its subtle social commentary. Ace detective Ake Stenstrom has been murdered in the deadliest case of mass murder in Stockholm (the detectives on the case have only heard of such atrocities happening on the violent soil of America). But the husband-wife co-authors present more than an intriguing knot of clues to demand the reader?s intellect?they present characters as complex and worthy of unraveling as the murder case itself. Chief Inspector Martin Beck, former boss and close friend to the victim, is the foremost example. He not only leads us to the solution of the mystery with intelligence and compassion, but through Beck and the other detectives, we begin to see the condition of man, as well as the sacrifices made to improve society. Perhaps Detective Beck articulates this condition of the policeman: the dehumanizing effect of seeing the most brutal, violent and loathsome aspects of society. But despite the police officer?s submersion in this victimized, grotesque reality, the Stockholm Homicide Squad is able to maintain (not without sacrifice) the ideals of justice. Even the brutish Gunvald Larsson expresses his sympathy for the victimized lower class?including victims and petty lawbreakers alike: ?I feel sorry for nearly everyone we meet in this job. They?re just a lot of scum who wish they?d never been born. It?s not their fault that everything goes to hell and they don?t understand why.? From page one till the final climax, The Laughing Policeman provides the customary suspense and entertainment of a detective novel, as well as lucid glimpses of the complex relationship between Man and Law.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
Typical of the authors. Perfect crime procedural novel in the vein of of Ed McBain and others. Timeless in the way that never gets old. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Alexander Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the introduction!!!
Another great book in the Martin Beck series. But don 't read the introduction before you read the book as Jonathan Franzen spoils three major plot points in his intro! Read more
Published 14 months ago by ScottMcDonnell
5.0 out of 5 stars He Laughs
In this fourth Martin Beck mystery book, he laughs. The Laughing Policeman in the perfect mystery thriller. You are kept guessing right until the last page. A spectacular crime. Read more
Published on June 9 2010 by Dave and Joe
2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe It's Me..........
but this book just didn't float my boat. I like my books hard-boiled and/or noir and The Laughing Policeman failed on both counts; in fact to be honest I didn't even finish it... Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2004 by POP
3.0 out of 5 stars Comfort Food
I picked up "The Laughing Policeman" after seeing it recommended by both the Washington Post's very reliable Michael Dirda and by "The Corrections" author... Read more
Published on Nov. 21 2002 by "theloniousb"
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
The fourth book in the Martin Beck series of novels, and one of the best. This is the first one that really begins to lay on the social and political commentary, but never loses... Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2002 by daveklein222
3.0 out of 5 stars Gruesome Murder
Welcome to Stockholm Sweden the home of vicious murder. The Laughing Policeman begins similarly to a James Patterson novel with a gruesome act of terror and human sacrifice as a... Read more
Published on April 8 2002 by Albert Chou
5.0 out of 5 stars The Swedish Mistake
The Laughing Policeman, written by Swedish authors May Sjowall and Per Wahloo, is a fascinating journey into the minds and actions of a society built upon an idealist social... Read more
Published on March 25 2002 by Leya Speasmaker
4.0 out of 5 stars A routine police investigation?
Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's 1968 novel gives readers an insider's view on a group of Stockholm detectives working to uncover the mystery behind an abandoned bus with gunned-down... Read more
Published on March 21 2002 by Lottie L. Baker
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