Friday, May 20, 2016

Murder at the Savoy: Review

Murder at the Savoy (1970) is the sixth novel in Martin Beck series of Swedish police procedurals by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. In this installment, Viktor Palmgren, a wealthy and powerful industrialist is shot while delivering an after-dinner speech in the Savoy Hotel dining room in the small coastal town of Malmö. The killer walks calmly into the room, shoots Palmgren, and exits via the nearby window. No one really paid attention to him as he walked into the dining room and by the time everyone realizes that the subdued "pop" was actually a gunshot and the reason Palmgren is now facedown in his mashed potatoes is because a bullet is lodged beneath his ear the man is gone. The witnesses can only provide vague descriptions of a medium tall, average-looking guy in a suit jacket with mismatched pants and a light-colored shirt. Not much for the police to go on.

When it is discovered that Palmgren had international connections, some high-level folks get a case of anxiety and Chief Inspector Martin Beck is sent to take over the investigation. He finds that Palmgren was a pretty despicable individual whom nobody really liked, but Beck has difficulty finding a motive big enough to incite murder. By the time he sifts through what few clues he and the police team he marshals can gather and interviews all the witnesses and suspects, Beck has more sympathy for the murderer than he does for the victim. As usual, Beck gets his man (or woman, as the case may be), but this particular arrest doesn't provide quite the satisfaction of past cases.

This is a more sombre entry in the Beck series. The murderer's life is a bleak one and Palmgren is morally responsible. It is difficult not to sympathize with the killer even though taking another's life should never be an option. Beck wrestles with his own sympathies for the killer and there are also developments in Beck's personal life that provide more depth to the character. A book that encourages the reader to think about actions and the repercussions that take place--both the obvious results and those that might not be anticipated.

Sjöwall and Wahlöö write pure police procedurals. We follow the detectives as they investigate and know exactly what they find and what they think about those discoveries. There are no red herrings to mystify the reader while the detective smugly gathers clues and the denouement is not a surprise. Just a solid story of police work, crime and consequences.   ★★

This counts for the "Food" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Never heard of this author or series. Sounds decent enough though.