1960s Crime

Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Roseanna (The Martin Beck series)Translated from the Swedish by Lois Roth

Five words from the blurb: detective, Sweden, crime, strangled, boat

Martin Beck is commonly described as one of the best fictional detectives ever created and this series always tops crime fiction “must-read” lists. Roseanna is the first of ten books and I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time. I’m pleased I’ve finally read this crime classic and look forward to enjoying the rest of the series. 

The plot was quite simple, revolving around the discovery of a dead woman in a lake. The identity of her killer is quickly narrowed down to one of the 85 people on board a passenger ferry. Martin Beck uses his slow, but thorough detective skills to locate the murderer in this easy to read, but gripping narrative.

Roseanna was written in the 1960s, a golden age for crime fiction. In our Internet age there is something charming about the lack of mobile phones and the fact that it takes two weeks for messages to travel from America to Sweden.  The writing also has a gentleness that means it isn’t disturbing, no matter how violent the crime. 

Unfortunately I was a little disappointed by the ending. Despite the initial slowness of the investigation, the resolution seemed to happen too easily. I wished that there had been several suspects so the reader had the opportunity to guess whodunnit.  Instead it just seemed like a charming introduction to Martin Beck – nothing really wrong with that, but not that exciting either:

When he smiled, you could see his healthy, white teeth. His dark hair was combed straight back from the even hairline and had not yet begun to gray. The look in his soft blue eyes was clear and calm. He was thin but not especially tall and somewhat round-shouldered. Some women would say he was good looking but most of them would see him as quite ordinary. He dressed in a way that would draw no attention. If anything, his clothes were a little too discreet.

I’ve heard that the real joy of this series is seeing how Beck (and Sweden) develop over time and so although this wasn’t completely satisfying I’m still keen to try the rest of the series.


Have you read this series?

Were you hooked from book one?

Which books in this series did you enjoy the most?



2012 Books in Translation

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared Translated from the Swedish by Rod Bradbury

Five words from the blurb: escaping, unlikely, journey, momentous, life

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is the word-of-mouth bestseller of 2012. Positive reviews seem to be cropping up on a daily basis – so I thought I’d add another one to its arsenal.

The book begins with Allan jumping out of his bedroom window just before his 100th birthday party. Tired of being cooped up in his retirement home he decides to escape and have one last adventure. He begins an unrealistic journey involving murder, a suitcase of stolen money, and many narrow escapes from the police. Over the course of his travels we learn about his life; an equally unlikely story about meeting the greatest leaders of the last century at key moments in history.

This book was totally mad, but it had a heartwarming charm that thoroughly entertained me.

The corpse fell forwards and hit his forehead on an iron handle.
‘That would have been really painful if the circumstances had been a little different,’ said Allan.
‘There are undoubtedly advantages to being dead,’ said Julius.

My only problem was that I felt the book was a bit too long. I enjoyed seeing Allan meet Harry Truman, Chairman Mao and Churchill, but by the time he met Kim Il Sung I thought the joke was wearing a bit thin – there are only so many world leaders a person can meet without the stories becoming a bit repetitive. I think it might have been better if he’d been an ordinary citizen having a mad adventure, instead of a book that included so many famous people and a potted history of the 21st century.

Overall this was an entertaining, original book and as long as you don’t take it too seriously I’m sure you’ll be charmed by it too.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

It’s very funny with enough intelligence in the historical flashbacks to keep more serious readers engrossed. The Tattooed Book

…fresh, funny and different, but I can’t say that it is very good. Swamp of Boredom

…one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. The Savvy Reader

Books in Translation Chunkster Crime Mystery Thriller

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsson

Translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland

I’m confused. Please could someone explain why everyone raves about this book; why it has sold millions of copies around the world and why people are describing it as the best crime novel ever. I just don’t understand it – I found it to be just average, with quite a few flaws.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does have a reasonably complex plot, with several different threads running parallel to each other, but the basic premise involves solving a murder, which remained a mystery for almost 40 years.

My main problem with the book was that I guessed the ending very early on. In my view, a fantastic crime novel will leave little clues along the way, continually leading you to think one thing, then doubt yourself and guess again.  This book failed to do that – I just found my initial suspicions becoming stronger, until I was disappointingly proved right.

I also found the pace of the book to be slow. The beginning especially, contained far too many facts. I found myself becoming bogged down in the details, so was unable to find the reading experience enjoyable in several places.

I have heard a few people mention the negative portrayal of women in the book, and have to agree that this is another flaw. The original Swedish title can be translated as Men Who Hate Women, so I can see why it was changed for the international audience!  The poor treatment of women in this book was a minor problem, but I think that reading books like 2666 recently has dulled my sensitivity to these issues and other people may be far more offended than I was.

I did find the writing to be of a good quality, and the translation was excellent, but the plot was a big disappointment. It contained nothing ground-breaking, or particularly clever – it was just an average crime novel, no better than the thousands of other ones produced each year. Am I missing something? What makes this book so special?



Did you enjoy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Are the sequels better?