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 book. The 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…