Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Laughing Policeman: Reviw

A cold rainy November night in Stockholm finds every available on-duty policeman facing off with a mob of anti-Vietnam protestors. The crime underworld and the riffraff of the city take advantage of the force's preoccupation to carry out plans of their own as well as random vandalism. And one unknown man climbs aboard a late-night double-decker bus and shoots nine people. Eight people, including the bus driver and a member of the force's detective squad, are killed man's life hang's by a thread and Martin Beck and his fellow officers hope he'll live long enough to give them a clue to the killer's identity. Because other clues are rather thin on the ground.

The press and their superior officers are ready to call this the work of a psychotic mass-murderer--despite that being more typical elsewhere than in Sweden--but the longer the investigation goes on, the more convinced Beck and Lennart Kollberg become that an unusual amount of planning went into this murder spree. As they take a closer look at each of the victims, searching for a possible key target, they keep asking themselves:

Why was Åke Stenström, a young detective in Beck's squad, on that double-decker bus? 

That question leads them to an unsolved murder and when they find the answer to that, then the pieces begin to fall into place on this more recent crime.

This novel, a 1971 Edgar award-winner (originally written 1968), is a knock-out police procedural and a fine example of Swedish crime fiction from the late 1960s. The books are advertised as the Martin Beck series, but this novel focuses more on Kollberg than on anyone. Kollberg is the one who gets to know Stenström's girlfriend and really begins to put together the clues that will lead to the solution. The investigation is definitely a team effort--many others are out gathering clues, but Kollberg takes the lead. It was good to get a closer look at Kollberg and his home life and to understand a bit better what makes him tick.

The writing is spare and clean, yet very gripping. Even though there is a lot of waiting and sifting through false leads in this story, the reader is never bored. It is easy to see why this novel was an award-winner. I thoroughly enjoyed another visit with Beck's crime team.

This fulfills the "Man in the Title" category on the Silver Vintage Bingo card. Changed my mind (since I've claimed no Silver Bingos, I can do this)--This now fulfills the "Made Into a Movie" category on the Silver Bingo card.  The movie was released in 1973 and transported the action to San Franicisco. Starring Walter Mathau, Louis Gossett, Jr., Cathy Lee Crosby, and others.


fredamans said...

I wonder where on earth you find these old books, and though I probably won't read it, it looks like it's a well-written book.
Great review!

Bev Hankins said...

Freda--used bookstores. I love them!