Friday, May 29, 2015

The Abominable Man: Review

The Abominable Man (1971) is the seventh novel in the Martin Beck mystery series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. It shows Beck facing one of the greatest challenges in his career--challenges calling for quick detective work and professional challenges when his investigation reveals evidence of corruption all the way through some of the highest levels of the force. 

It all begins with the horrific murder of a chief inspector in his hospital room--murdered by bayonet. And it soon becomes apparent that the person responsible has a personal hatred of not only Chief Inspector Nyman but the police in general. As Beck and his team work against the clock to find the madman before he can drastically reduce the number of officers on the force, they find a link to Nyman's reputation for brutal, strong-arm police tactics. Tactics he perfected as a sadistic instructor in the armed forces and used over a forty-year career. Could the madman be someone falsely arrested and abused while in custody? Or perhaps he's a rogue cop who suffered under a harsh Inspector and is looking for revenge. 

Beck and his colleagues finally run the culprit to earth, but the final stand-off with an expert marksman will raise the police body count to at least five and Beck will have to resort to a drastic plan in order to stop the killer before he can claim more lives. The man will be caught--but at what cost? And how much blame rests with a police force which harbored corrupt officers and turned a blind eye to reports of misconduct?

This installment of the Beck series is a hard-hitting novel on a number of levels. It opens with Nyman's very brutal death, but soon turns into a commentary on the method of police work that had its roots in a sadistic drill-sergeant style of instruction and enforcement. Although the reader can't condone the murders, one can still understand the motive. When those who are called upon to serve and protect cause so much harm in one person's life, it isn't hard to understand when that person reaches the end of their endurance. 

Definitely not a puzzle mystery and not entirely a police procedural--although we do watch Beck and his men hard at work gathering the evidence and searching the records for clues to the killer's identity. This works best as a social commentary on the state of the police force in the early 1970s and makes for an absorbing read. But it is also an action-packed police drama--moving quickly from the first murder to the final scene. Sjöwall and Wahlöö are experts at setting the scene and placing the reader right in the middle of the action. ★★★★ for a perfectly paced, police thriller.

This fulfills the "Set Anywhere But US/England" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I'm not huge on police dramas, so hope the air of mystery is thick enough for the likes of me. Great review!