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Maj Sjöwall Books In Order

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Publication Order of Martin Beck Books

with Per Wahlöö
Roseanna (1965)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (1966)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Man on the Balcony (1967)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Laughing Policeman / Investigation of Murder (1968)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Fire Engine that Disappeared (1969)Description / Buy at Amazon
Murder at the Savoy (1970)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Abominable Man (1971)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Locked Room (1972)Description / Buy at Amazon
Cop Killer (1974)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Terrorists (1975)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

A Darker Shade of Sweden(2013)Description / Buy at Amazon
Ten Year Stretch(2018)Description / Buy at Amazon

Maj Sjöwall is the pen name of Maj Sjöwall, who frequently collaborated with her husband Per Wahlöö. She was an author or crime and mystery fiction who unfortunately passed away in April 2020. Together they are a Swedish married couple that also happened to be committed Marxists at the time. She wrote a number of novels with her husband and they all featured the police detective Martin Beck, a Swedish detective. They wrote ten mystery books together featuring Beck.

Maj Sjöwall made her debut as a published author in 1965 thanks to the debut of the novel Rosanna. This was the first in the Martin Beck series, which went on to have ten books in the series and an omnibus collection of the series was published in 2012, several years after the seventies decade in which they were published.

The Laughing Policeman is the fourth book in the series and is also known by the alternate title, Investigation of Murder. It won the 1971 award for best novel from the Edgar Awards. It was adapted into a movie that starred Walter Matthau. Sjöwall worked as a translator when she was not busy writing books. The last novel that she wrote was published in 1976 and was authored with her husband. It was called The Terrorists.

Roseanna is the first book in the Martin Beck series. This first novel in the mystery series opens with the main character of Detective Inspector Beck. Beck works in the Stockholm Homicide Squad to catch murderers. Soon he has another case when a young woman’s body is pulled up from the otherwise beautiful Lake Vattern in Sweden. Beck has no clues in the beginning to the murderer and at the start, they don’t even know the identity of the victim.

All that the Detective Inspector knows three months in is that the woman’s name was Roseanna. She was strangled, but that doesn’t exactly narrow the list of suspects down. All that Beck knows is that the killer is likely to have been one of the 81 people on a cruise with her.

Beck works tirelessly to narrow the list of suspects, all while getting to know more about the victim. She was a free spirit, a traveler, and had a tendency towards casual sex. As Roseanna’s personality stands out to Beck, he starts to suspect that the killer has a terrifying sense of propriety. This was a murder that they felt entitled to.

Beck is not your typical detective. He has a number of things that define him. He catches every cold there is when it comes around. He doesn’t feel well when he drinks coffee, but he drinks it anyway. Riding the subway makes him sick, but he has to do it. Most of his time he spends in a state of melancholy or near-depression.

Beck works long hours because he gets so involved in his cases but because his marriage is not doing well. He married his wife because she was happy, but her good mood slowly dissolved after they had children. He works on model ships to let his mind unwind but also process the details of the cases. While he loves his children, they are another reminder of what his marriage has become; stagnant and sad.

The case is complicated, and this is because Roseanna McGraw was not just murdered but raped too. When her body is dredged from the lake, the initial case goes to the local Motala police force, but Beck is sent in to help. Luckily, he has a partner in the intelligent Detective Ahlberg. Together they channel their obsessive nature over the cases to figure out who committed the crime. They keep calling each other with the information they have to share, but for some time the information they have is not enough to crack the case.

But when they enlist the help of a Nebraskan detective, Detective Kafka, they get some more information. Kafka is adept at interviewing the people that knew Roseanna. As the case goes on, they are simply waiting for clues, answers, anything that is going to help them catch the killer. Beck operates off of intuition, but will it be enough to catch the killer before they strike again?

The second book in the Martin Beck series is The Man Who Went Up in Smoke. It was published in 1966. In this exciting sequel, Detective Inspector Martin Beck of the Stockholm Homicide Squad is back. This time he is assigned to a case that involves a Swedish journalist’s disappearance who has seemingly vanished into thin air. The journalist is very well-known, but they are also nowhere to be found. They have just totally disappeared.

It’s been two years since the Roseanna case wrapped up. Beck is enjoying his summer vacation to a point, but the relaxing vacation he thought he was going to have disappears like the journalist when the foreign office’s top guys assign him to go to Budapest in the search for Alf Matsson, the Swedish journalist. It was his first evening of vacation. But what starts off as a case regarding a missing person leads the detective inspector further into a strange word that involves quite a bit of danger.

Before he knows it, the Detective Inspector is caught up in an underworld that he never knew existed. Packed with Eastern European power players and dangerous characters, Beck soon finds that his life is seriously in danger and not everyone appreciates his efforts to locate the missing journalist. He barely knows the language and the local Hungarian police aren’t exactly being cooperative– they question his reason for being there.

Martin checks into a hotel of the missing man and learns that the man disappeared the same day he got there, with his luggage and room key in the custody of the police. Beck traces the journalist’s movements and even gets to eavesdrop on the Swedish friends of Matsson. He feels like he is getting somewhere, and the Hungarian police are keeping an eye on him to boot. Before he knows it, he is caught up in a deep drug smuggling racket and a case that could have international repercussions. Will he find the truth before the smugglers get to him? Pick up this book and see for yourself!

Book Series In Order » Authors » Maj Sjöwall

One Response to “Maj Sjöwall”

  1. jimbobadger: 4 years ago

    This is a wonderful series. Back before the internet, cell phones. When people lived day by day, not second by second. One of my favorites. Martin Beck is your classic dectective.


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