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Book Title: Terroristerna|
The author of the book: Maj Sjöwall
Edition: Norstedts Pocket
Date of issue: May 2005
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 8.67 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.1
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rating for the series as a whole, now that I'm finished with the last installment,
Over the years, more than one person had wondered what it was that made Martin Beck such a good policeman.
A legitimate question, given the enduring popularity of this series of ten police procedural novels written 50 years ago and still considered among the best in the field. For the authors, it is a rhetorical question, aboundantly answered in the actions of their lead character:
"... a systematic mind, common sense, and conscientiousness", in that order.
Many popular writers have tried to explain their own interest in Beck, and each of the ten novels is introduced by one of these big guns in the field. I usually avoid introductions, trying to make my own mind about what I am reading before I check out what others critics think, but in this present case, I believe Dennis Lehane is much more articulate than I could ever hope to be, so I will let him present Martin Beck to you:
As this novel - the tenth in the series - is Martin Beck's swan song, it's worth noting that in the annals of realistic fictional policemen, Beck stands a full head above most. He carries plenty of psychic scars and admits to a depressive personality, but he's not gloom laden to the point of masochistic self-pity that so often masquerades as a hard-boiled hero's tragic worldview. Beck is a dogged worker bee entering his later middle-aged years with a healthy romantic life and no illusions about his place in the larger scheme of things. However exceptional, he is a civil servant. A great cop, yes, but in Sjowall and Wahloo's vision, a great cop is little more than a great functionary in a hopelessly flawed system. Beck's talents include "his good memory, his obstinacy, which was occasionally mule-like ... his capacity for logical thought ... and finding the time for everything that had anything to do with a case, even if this meant following up small details that later turned out to be of no significance"
This is what makes a great cop - not the gun, not outsized emotion, not a need to tilt at windmills and otherwise rage against machines. That's the writer's job. The cop's job is to persevere, to examine the evidence, collate the data, push the papers, and work the case to its end.
With an apology for the long quote, put here more for my own later reference, I will next remark on the writer's job, what Lehane calls "tilting at windmills". Over the ten book journey, I have remarked on the increasing acerbity of the social polemic promoted by Sjowall and Wahloo. The murder cases under investigation start with an anonymous victim of a deranged serial killer in "Roseanna", and slowly evolve into a condemnation of society in its entirety, in particular of the incompetent bureaucracy that controls the centralized police force. Martin Beck is apolitical, a functionary doing his job, but even for himself it becomes impossible to ignore the larger significance of the murders cases that land on his desk. For his colleague and best friend Kollberg, the pressure to conform to a rotten system proved too much, so he throws in the towel and quits. Martin is resigned to the loss of his friend, but this way out is not an option for him, too aware that it is the responsiblity of a good person to continue to do his job to the best of his ability:
He's a nice man. I like his wife, too. And I think he did the right thing. He saw that the police as an organization devoted itself to terrorizing mainly two categories of people, socialists and people who couldn't make it in our class society. He acted according to his conscience and convinctions.
It comes as no surprise to readers who followed the series in publication order, that the last book is dominated by the social issues to an unprecedented level. Given that Wahloo knew he was dying of cancer, it is probably not surprising that he turned the final chapter into a fiery anti-establishment manifesto. With his life partner Maj Sjowall, they close 'The Story of Crime' with the whole government put on trial for murders against 'the people'.
I think lots of people know perfectly well they're being cheated and betrayed, but most people are too scared or too comfortable to say anything. It doesn't help to protest or complain, either, because the people in power don't pay any attention. They don't care about anything except their own importance, they don't care about ordinary people.
There are several kinds of terrorists in this last novel, and analyzing their methods and their ideology is probably going to spoil the outcome of the investigation, so tread carefully from this point on.
The novel starts with three unrelated events: a young woman is accused of robbing a bank, a producer of pornographic movies is assassinated in the house of his mistress, and a president of a Latin American country is blown to pieces by a hidden bomb on an official visit, despite comprehensive protective measures. Beck, as head of the Crime section of Stockholm's police is involved in the first two, and is later assigned as coordinator for security measures surrounding the visit of a powerful American senator to Sweden. Given the absence of old time friend Kollberg, Beck has to rely to a greater degree on Gunvald Larsson, despite their mutual dislike.
The trend of blaming the system and the incompetent of ill-intended oligarchy was started several books back in the series, but it reaches its peak here, as the role are reversed and the criminals are cast in a positive light and their actions are seen as justified rebellion in the face of gross injustice. The victims or targets are cast as guilty as charged of crimes against humanity. (view spoiler)[ the young unwed mother is pushed over the edge by a combination of incompetence and indifference as her boyfriend is arrested in the US for draft dodging and her visit to a bank to ask for a loan is turned into a tragic comedy of errors; the pornographer gets his just deserts for the corruption of young girls with drugs and empty promises; the American Senator is the epitome of militaristic adventurism and war crimes; the head of government pays the price of the whole systematic plunder of resources and accumulation of wealth and power at the top of the social pyramid. (hide spoiler)]
Pro bono lawyer Braxen captures the essence of the futile efforts of the individual against the system:
A long lifetime's struggle against various authorities, and especially those who have more power than others, has taught me that one can seldom get anyone to listen, and even more seldom convince them that you're right.
From the same Braxen, in case the point was not clear enough:
What sort of people are they you get for murder and other horrors? Like the last one - some poor working slob who tried to hit back at the capitalist bastard who had destroyed his life.
Such blatant embrace of socialist politics might have been a turn-off, a disconnect, in the hands of less skillfull writers. But Sjowall and Wahloo are working together like a fine tuned piano, tugging at the heart strings with their tale of woe of the simple men and women, carefully escalating the tension of the chase and depicting the slow accumulation of clues with consummate art. Without humour and a touch of love this tale would be grim and depressing, but sometimes the same humour is of such a dark shade that the laughter is coming hand in hand with fury:
You mean he thought your abbreviation for 'clod squad' stood for 'commando section.' ?
It's even harder to laugh when you know that several years after the book was published, life overtook fiction and (view spoiler)[ the prime minister of Sweden was assassinated in a bizare incident while his secret service detail was absent from duty (hide spoiler)]. Regarding the unequal struggle between the oligarchy and the disenfranchised citizens, I can't help but notice that Sjowall and Wahloo's arguments, situated unapologetically at the extreme left of the political spectrum, are nevertheless echoed today in the indifference of the major players to the demonstrations and grass roots movements of their electorate: protests against globalization, mass surveillance, money in politics, too big to fall banks and widespread corruption come and go under the imperturbable gaze of the elite, while secret pacts are negotiated to give them and their corporations even more control over our lives.
Recently - no; for as long as I can remember, large and powerful nations within the capitalist bloc have been ruled by people who according to accepted legal norms are simply criminals, who from lust for power and financial gain have led their people into an abyss of egoism, self-indulgence and a view of life based entirely on materialism and ruthlessness toward their fellow human beings. reiterates the attorney Braxton while Rhea, the late blooming new love in Martin Beck's life, exclaims: What a goddamn awful world we live in. , even as she continues with her small efforts to make life better for her small circle of friends and neighbours. I think of her, and the only hope I see for the future is in these individual gestures of kindness and integrity that always start from the bottom up.
A lot of nostalgia and reminiscing about the past infuses this last novel in the series. I share in the sadness of necessary goodbyes to Beck and his idiosyncratic colleagues from the Stockholm Serious Crime Unit, many of them making cameo appearances in this last investigation: Lennart Kollberg, Fredrik Melander, Benny Skacke, Gunnvald Larsson, Einar Ronn, Asa Torrell, Per Mansson, and all the other memorable people that give a human face to the cold equations of murder.
The influence of the work of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo is unquestioned on both sides of the Atlantic, and is often judged as the golden standard against which other police procedurals are today judged. The authors claim that they planned it from the start to tell their story in ten books, but my last quote reflects on the continuity, both of the criminal endeavours and of the efforts of good men and women to fight against them and against the root causes of evil.
- "Do you remember ten years ago?"
- "When we were hunting for Folke Bengtsson and the police had just been nationalized? Yes, I do, and I guess that is a time to remember. But everything that happened afterwards? No, goddammit."
- "Do you think that was when it all began?"
- "No, I don't. And what's worse, I don't think this is where it's going to end."
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Read information about the authorMaj Sjöwall is a Swedish author and translator. She is best known for the collaborative work with her partner Per Wahlöö on a series of ten novels about the exploits of Martin Beck, a police detective in Stockholm. In 1971, the fourth of these books, The Laughing Policeman (a translation of Den skrattande polisen, originally published in 1968) won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Novel.They also wrote novels separately.
Sjöwall had a 13 year relationship with Wahlöö which lasted until his death in 1975.
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