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The Man Who Went Up in Smoke: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (2) [Paperback]

Maj Sjowall , Per Wahloo , Val McDermid
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 30 2008 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
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.

Frequently Bought Together

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (2) + Roseanna: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (1) + The Man on the Balcony: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (3)
Price For All Three: CDN$ 38.92


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Review

“Sjöwall and Wahlöö write unsparingly and unswervingly. . . . Fast moving storytelling. . . . Their plots are second to none.” —Val McDermid, from the introduction "Enormously satisfying. . . . Terse, tense and eminently readable." —Chicago Tribune“Ingenious. . . . Their mysteries don't just read well; they reread even better. . . . The writing is lean, with mournful undertones.”—The New York Times“The husband-wife combination forms a superb story-telling team.”—El Paso Times

About the Author

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, her husband and coauthor, wrote ten Martin Beck mysteries. Mr Wahlöö, who died in 1975, was a reporter for several Swedish newspapers and magazines and wrote numerous radio and television plays, film scripts, short stories, and novels. Maj Sjöwall is also a poet.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars hooked, hooked, hooked June 5 2010
By Dave and Joe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is the second in the brilliant Martin Beck series. Please start at the beginning and read in order, it's easy to do as the books are widely available. Though they can be stand alone, there are references in this book to the previous Roseanna and it helps to know who the characters are. Martin Beck here is looking for someone missing, at first there are no clues, no ideas, a terrific start to a wonderful mystery. I particularly like how well this book, and the series, evokes the sixties both in the temperment of the times and the problem of fighting crime, close up, not sitting at a computer screen or waiting for a lab to come up with results. Deduction and intution have taken a back seat to technology in recent times, not here. Here crime is face so closely you can feel it's breath on your back.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars congratulations Sept. 7 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
congratulations on stumbling onto one of the best crime/satire series of the 20th century. If you didn't like this one, read some others, especially The Locked Room. Great writing with a moderate slant (they slam liberals and conservatives) makes this a wonderful series.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  42 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As I was going up the stair Jan. 4 2007
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I met a man who wasn't there.

Summer vacation season is in full swing and Inspector Martin Beck has just arrived in an isolated summer cottage on an island off the Swedish coast. The very next morning a neighbor rows out to advise him that he is wanted on the telephone. He is needed back in Stockholm for a meeting with the Police Chief and the Swedish Foreign office. Beck grudgingly returns for the meeting and is asked to travel to Budapest, Hungary to find a missing journalist. The journalist, Alf Matsson, has gone missing and the tabloid newspaper he works for has pressured the Foreign Office to search for the report. Beck has been asked to `volunteer' for the task. Despite, or perhaps because of, his wife's displeasure (their marriage is not in the best condition) at his departure, Beck accepts the assignment. In short order he is provided with a full set of travel documents, a brief dossier on Matsson, and a ticket for Budapest. The only thing Beck lacks is the first clue as to how to locate Matsson.

As the story progresses we see Beck put together bits and pieces of information as he wanders, seemingly aimlessly, through the picturesque streets of Budapest. Beck is traveling purely as a civilian and soon attracts the attention of the Budapest police force, in particular a detective who may or may not be an ally of Beck. Beck also attracts the attention of what may be either Budapest's underworld or representatives of the Hungarian security forces. For all intents and purposes Beck is a stranger in a strange land.

As with all the other Martin Beck mysteries in this ten-book series (this is the third in the series), "The Man Who Went Up in Smoke" is rich with character-driven narrative. Beck's character and his relationships with his colleagues and his wife are fleshed out as Beck plods along trying to unravel the mystery surrounding Matsson's disappearance. The authors, the husband and wife team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, do a nice job of revealing details in a measured pace along the way. The plot and narrative do fall squarely within the usual police procedural `formula' but that does nothing to take away from the enjoyment of reading the book. Although the reader may find the ending a bit predictable (I didn't) the real enjoyment of the series involves the development of Beck's character. As with many good detective series (Simenon's Maigret comes to mind here) the personality of Beck takes pride of place. He is far from being a super hero, is no Sherlock Holmes (who is?), smokes too much, doesn't eat right, and has some troubles at home. He is appealing because of these flaws not despite them and his dogged determination and his personal involvement in the cases he handles drags the reader right into the story. He works at his job and doesn't and cannot rely on flashes of genius to solve a crime.

The Beck series has been an entertaining one. I recommend starting with the first book in the series (Roseanna) and working your way in chronological order. My only fault with the publisher, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (a division of Random House) is that they do not identify the order of books in the series. Despite that minor quibble any reader who enjoys Simenon, Eric Ambler, or Boris Akunin will enjoy the Martin Beck detective mysteries. Recommended. L. Fleisig.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a timeless gem of a story Oct. 16 2011
By Dr. Christine Maingard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It is hard to believe that The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) was written in the mid-60's and published in English in 1969. Swjowall & Wahloo were a husband & wife writing team (perhaps this is were Nicci French got their aspiration from) who have written a series of police thrillers and this one is the second in the "Martin Beck" series.

I loved this timeless gem that so masterfully portrays Swedish Detective Inspector Beck in his pursuit of uncovering the disappearance of a journalist in Budapest. Were it not for the obvious absence of any reference to technology & mobile phones one would think that the story was only written yesterday. Swjowall & Wahloo are masters in examining human nature and their plot, both in terms of subject and structure, is flawless.

If you like timeless police thrillers, this is well worth a read.

Christine Maingard, Author of 'Think Less Be More:Mental Detox for Everyone'
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A hopeless meaningless assignment" Nov. 18 2010
By Patto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This, the second Martin Beck mystery, is somewhat atypical. The inspector is not operating in Sweden but in Budapest, where a Swedish journalist named Alf Matsson has disappeared. Beck's "hopeless meaningless assignment" is to find Matsson - with no official status and no staff support.

It's the Iron Curtain era, besides, and the case may be politically sensitive. So Beck is forbidden to speak with the local police.

Clueless and directionless, Beck wanders around admiring the Danube and feasting on Hungarian food at a tourist's pace, even though he's been told to find his man in a week. But he does unearth a few suggestive details. Eventually his very presence starts stirring things up.

As Val McDermid points out in her insightful introduction, the plotting of the Martin Beck mysteries is superb. With this book, you think you're getting one kind of story, and it turns into something quite different.

Before Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö became crime writers, they were journalists, and here they paint a fascinating picture of a rowdy set of hard-working, hard-drinking reporters and feature writers. The missing journalist emerges as a particularly nasty character. Beck finds himself feeling strangely indifferent to Matsson's fate as he moves closer to finding him.

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke was first published in 1966. Martin Beck is already middle-aged and seems to like his job better than his family. The obsessive depressive Swedish detective we meet again and again in today's Scandinavian crime fiction can be traced back to Martin Beck.

I loved the casual realism of this book, the spare prose, the quirky humor and the unpredictable meanderings of the plot. There's a subtlety of approach that reminds me of Simenon. I plan to read the whole series in order.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The story that went up in smoke Jan. 31 2013
By William A. Gnoss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Holy cow. This is the second of the series of books with Martin Beck. This time he spends 2/3 of his time spinning wheels in Budapest with exactly one exciting moment and the rest quite dull and accomplishing nothing. Then he goes back home and figures out what happened in the most anti-climatic ending possible. I thought this
was a waste of time, I'm back to Wallander.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rediscovering the Martin Beck mysteries Sept. 8 2010
By Rick Skwiot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It had been decades since I'd read a Martin Beck roman policier from the Swedish team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö - so long that I can't remember which ones I might have read. But on a friend's recommendation I went back to Beck in a 1969 mystery "The Man Who Went Up In Smoke." While reputedly not their best effort, it was good enough for me to want to read more.

In it Detective Beck interrupts his summer vacation to travel from Stockholm to Budapest to investigate the seeming disappearance there of a Swedish journalist. While the plot is not that intriguing, the policemen are -- Swedes and Hungarians alike. They share a stocism, a sardonic Weltanschauung, and unresolved marital problems. As a result, they come off as human beings at work instead of formulaic heroic crime-fighters.

As when Beck's colleague Kollberg is receiving an oral report on the apprehension of two suspects from an unimaginative provinical Swedish cop, Backlund, who states that they "`were taken to police headquarters...by Patrolmen Kristiansson and Kvant. Both men were under the influence of alcohol.'"

"`Kristiansson and Kvant?'"

"Backlund gave Kolberg a look of reproach and went on..."

Subtle humor, Swedish humor perhaps, which peppers the gritty novel at unexpected moments.

But most alluring is the Cold War-era view of Europe, the deliberate pacing, and the crisp prose as translated by Joan Tate. The result is soothing, reminding me of Simenon's Maigret novels. Like Maigret, Beck drinks a lot. Also like Maigret, he has a long-suffering wife -- though Beck's does not suffer silently as does Madame Maigret.

From 1965 to 1975 Sjöwall and Wahlöö published 10 Martin Beck mysteries, the most noted being "The Laughing Policeman," made into a 1973 movie, set in San Francisco in lieu of the novel's Stockholm, with Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern.
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