Monday, July 11, 2011

Roseanna: Review

Not too long ago I read my first Martin Beck book by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö--The Man on the Balcony. That book was a little intense for me (it involved the murders of children...something I have a really hard time reading about), but I enjoyed the writing so much, I wanted to give the series another try. So, I went back to the beginning and picked up Roseanna from the library.

Roseanna tells the story of a nameless young woman whose body is found in Sweden's beautiful Lake Vattern. The canal leading to the lake had clogged up and needed dredged. During the dredging process the machines brought up more than the crew bargained for. The woman was naked and had been strangled and sexually assaulted. Beyond that, Martin Beck and his fellow officers had little to go on. They didn't know who she was, where she came from, how she got there, or who might have put her there. Before they can catch a killer, they need to know who the victim was. By the end of three months, they know very little more--her name was Roseanna, she came from the US, and had taken a cabin on the cruise ship Diana. Any of the 85 passengers and crew could be the murderer....or it's possible that one of the deck passengers (those who join the boat for a day or so and ride for only part of the trip) might be the culprit. Slowly, the team gathers evidence and work up a picture of the guilty party. Will Beck catch him before he kills again?

This book (and the remaining books in the series of ten) is said to have changed the way crime novels were written.
Sjöwall and Wahlöö broke with the trend of using stereotypical characters and gave their audience real men and women. Beck is no super-cop, he has no "little grey cells" to call upon. He's a real man--depressed with a difficult home life--who happens to be good at his job and very patient. Patience would seem to be the driving force of this novel. It takes a lot of patience to keep pursuing the case after months of little to no progress. Just waiting for a little break to start the ball rolling again. The writing is spare and clean, yet very gripping. Even though there is a lot of waiting in this story, the reader is never bored. A top-notch rendering of the police procedural. Three and a half stars.

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