The Fire Engine That Disappeared feat. Martin Beck in his most baffling case ever

The Fire Engine That Disappeared feat. Martin Beck investigates two small time criminals in the Swedish underworld.

Earlier this year, I read and enjoyed the 1st book in the Martin Beck series, Roseanna, published in 1965 and set in Sweden. The fifth book in the series, The Fire Engine that Disappeared translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate is boring in parts and doesn’t even compare to the 1st bookThe story starts off fine but the plot just wasn’t interesting. I enjoyed other aspects of the story better like the characters personal lives and social issues the authors would bring up from time to time.

The Martin Beck ten book series are police procedurals set in Sweden during the 1960’s and what makes them notable reads is the extensive attention to characterization, social issues and setting. The books aren’t overly long and give a good look at the tediousness of police work where readers see how detectives solve their cases when they have scant clues, false leads, unknown suspects, horrible crime scenes, police interrogations and setbacks.

The story opens with a suicide. The victim leaves a note with Martin Beck’s name on it. Then later, the Swedish police investigate a house fire of a known thief and criminal whose body is found charred inside. The house explodes in full view of two police officers assigned to watch the house. The fire also kills several innocent people. Someone raises the alarm but the fire truck ends up going somewhere else.

The victim of the house fire is a car thief who also smuggles drugs. His accomplices are also missing. Martin Beck and his team investigate the fire and the forensic investigator finds enough evidence to find it’s a suicide. So, case closed. But you know Beck, he has lingering suspicions and is always looking for something “unusual.” It isn’t until another police officer, Gunvald Larsson, a large, brute of a man who doesn’t hesitate to use his fists to wring out answers from tight-lipped people, starts looking deeply into the case for answers. He unofficially investigates the case. It’s determined later that the fire victim and another accomplice might be involved in a crime syndicate that so far has been under the radar of Interpol. These guys were small time. Their deaths show the hand of a professional. Continue Reading…

IN PRAISE OF LIES (1999) by Patricia Melo with translation by Clifford Landers is my third book from this talented writer. After enjoying her latest work, THE BODY SNATCHER (2015), I was even more interested in reading her stories that are sadly out of print but are relatively easy to find. How would I describe this book? It’s a nice mix of crime and humor that speaks to opportunism and charlatanism. I swiped this synopsis from Google Books:

When Jose met Melissa he had no idea he was getting involved with a deadly woman. She was an expert on poisonous snakes and venom. Jose was a crime writer who wanted to use this in his latest novel, until Melissa became too interested in the plot.

A crime writer seeking knowledge on how to kill someone with snakes gets more than he bargained for when he meets Melissa, a snake expert.

A crime writer seeking knowledge on how to kill someone with snakes gets more than he bargained for when he meets Melissa, a snake expert.

Jose Guber is a crime writer slash plagiarist spitting out stolen classics at the newsstands from Poe, Dostoevsky, Highsmith and others for the public good: As he says: “I felt I was doing people a favor by giving the less fortunate reader the chance to read Shakespeare, Poe and many other important authors.”

He meets Melissa, an expert on snakes at the Institute and the two soon become lovers. They even buy a boa constrictor together. Melissa is married and tells Jose that her husband beats her. Soon, the two conspire to kill her husband.

Melissa is one of the more memorable feminine fatale I’ve run across. She’s into snake trafficking and selling venom illegally to other countries like the United States to use for medicine. Her favorite crime stories are those that are crimes of passion and treacherous partners. Diabolical women who seduced and corrupted weak men. She eschews wise cracking detectives and psychopaths. Oh, no. She read A Train to Death by Martin Clark ‘several times.’  And that book doesn’t exist, btw. Continue Reading…

Brazilian suspense writer, Patricia Melo, at long last releases her first book in the U.S, The Body Snatcher tr. Clifford Landers.  This was one of my anticipated reads of the year. Melo writes about sex and violence in an urban setting and has published several titles available elsewhere. I heard about Patricia Melo several years ago from a reader. I read Lost World (2009) and was an immediate fan who went looking for her backlist. I loved her voice and style and wanted to read everything she ever wrote. She is really good an evoking a scary, depressing urbanized reality peopled with characters who dabble in criminality. In the world she creates, there’s homicides, drug trafficking, police corruption, blackmail and fraud.  TL;DR version: The Body Snatcher is very good despite a slow start. The length of the story is short at 193 pages. My rating is a 4.5/5. Continue Reading…