Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke: Review

The Man Who Went up in Smoke is the second novel by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö in the Martin Beck series.  In this one, Martin--a policeman through and through--gives up his summer holiday with his family to try and track down a missing journalist and avoid an international incident.  He finds himself leaving his island off the coast of Sweden to head to Hungary to search for Alf Matsson who has vanished without a trace from his hotel in Budapest.  Matsson checked into the hotel, spent a whole half hour in his room, and walked out of the hotel never to be seen again. Martin follows up clues that lead him through the Eastern underworld and finds him in contact with some very shady journalists.  Officials in Hungary seem to want to believe that Matsson is just playing tourist.  But Martin refuses to believe that the journalist would have walked off without his passport and the large sum of money hidden in his luggage.  But has Matsson disappeared by his own design or has he met foul play?  That's what Martin must discover.

This is an interesting story about a detective out of his comfort zone.  Martin has to operate in another country--without the resources of his police colleagues to help in the immediate action.  He does contact his department to follow up what leads they can back in Sweden, but he is on his own in Hungary.  At least until he wins the trust of the local officials.  I enjoyed this story in a different way from the other Martin Beck novels I've read so far.  It was interesting to see him on his own and to read the descriptions of Hungary and the comparisons to Sweden.  It was a nice one-off story.  But I have to say that given the choice--I prefer the interactions between Martin and his colleagues to Martin on his own and I wouldn't want to read an entire series that focused on Martin by himself.

The mystery sets Martin a fine little puzzle and it's interesting to watch him follow the leads.  There were a couple of leaps in deduction that caught me unawares and it took me a bit to catch up with our detective--but overall, a good solid story.  Three stars.

Fulfills a boatload of challenges: 150 Plus Reading Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Monthly Key Word, Outdo Yourself, Off the Shelf, Around the World, European Reading Challenge, What's in a Name, Embarrassment of Riches, Mystery & Crime Reading Challenge, Book Bingo


Man of la Book said...

Great review. I enjoyed Scandinavian over the past few years, am looking forward to reading this one as well.


Joy said...

Hi! I popped over from What's in a Name -- this looks like a fun book!

Joy's Book Blog

Gilion at Rose City Reader said...

This series has finally percolated to the top of my brain. I just put the audio editions on my library hold list.

Thanks for the review!

Sorry it has taken me forever to get around to reading all the reviews posted on the European Reading Challenge page. Thanks for taking part in the challenge again this year.

Rose City Reader

Ryan said...

I have yet to read one of the Scandanavian mysteries that seem to be cropping up all over the place. I may like this one, mainly because of the Hungary connection, but not sure I'll ever get to it.