Book Review: The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (1968)

The Laughing Policeman is a crime novel written by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, featuring the fictional Swedish police detective Martin Beck. The novel was first published in 1968 and is part of the ten-book Martin Beck series.

The novel’s plot revolves around a mass shooting on a Stockholm bus that kills nine people, including two police officers. Martin Beck is assigned to lead the investigation into the case, and his team begins to piece together the events leading up to the shooting.

They discover that the perpetrator had been seeking revenge against those he believed responsible for the death of his brother in a police shootout. As Beck and his team try to track down the killer, they encounter a number of obstacles and red herrings, including an anti-Vietnam War demonstration, a homosexual brothel, and a shady car dealership.

The investigation takes a toll on Beck, both physically and emotionally, as he becomes increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and the political interference in the case. Ultimately, Beck and his team are able to track down the killer and bring him to justice, but not before the investigation takes a tragic toll on several of the characters.

The Laughing Policeman by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall is the fourth novel in the Martin Beck series, and it was first published in 1968. The book is considered a classic of Scandinavian crime fiction and has won numerous awards.

What sets The Laughing Policeman apart from other crime novels is its realistic portrayal of police work. The investigation is slow, methodical, and filled with dead ends, false leads, and frustrating setbacks. The detectives are not infallible heroes but flawed human beings who struggle with their personal lives while trying to solve the case.

The characters are well-developed and realistic, and the book delves into their personal lives, adding depth and dimension to the story. The writing is crisp and concise, and the pacing is excellent, with the tension building steadily until the shocking conclusion.

The Laughing Policeman is a must-read for fans of crime fiction, particularly those who enjoy Scandinavian noir. It is a gripping, thought-provoking, and unforgettable novel that explores the darker side of human nature and the complexities of crime and punishment. You can buy a copy of this milestone book in Nordic Noir from Amazon here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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