My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I have tremendously enjoyed reading the books in this series. Up until now. I have to say that this sixth entry in the ten-book series left me scratching my head as to why they even bothered. It seemed as though the authors were simply phoning it in and were not really engaged by the story they were telling.
The "mystery" took a back seat to Sjowall's and Wahloo's exploration of Swedish society and all that (they felt) was wrong with it back in the 1960s when they were writing. Reading about the evils of the welfare state that was Sweden was interesting, at least historically, up to a point, but past that point, I frankly just felt that the writers were beating a dead horse. They were definitely beating a reader who had lost interest.
The mystery involves who shot Viktor Palmgren, a powerful Swedish industrialist, while he was making an after-dinner speech in the restaurant of the luxurious Hotel Savoy. He had just stood up to start his speech when a man walked into the restaurant and right up behind Palmgren and shot him in the head with a .22 caliber revolver. The other people around the dinner table were so shocked that they didn't realize at first what had happened and the assassin made his escape before anyone could react.
Initially, the victim survives, but then within a few hours his condition deteriorates and he dies. And so it becomes a case not just of assault but of murder.
This all happens in the southern town of Malmo. The police there are baffled and are getting nowhere with their investigation. Since Palmgren was a very big deal as a captain of industry and a major player in the international money markets, the powers that be in Stockholm are eager for an early solution to the murder. They send their main man, Martin Beck, to take over the investigation and find the culprit.
In reviewing Palmgren's background and his life, Beck finds that he was not a nice man and that there are probably any number of people who would have been happy to have him dead. But which one of them did it?
As usual, Beck is coming down with a cold and feeling miserable, and his detectives are just about the most reluctant group of investigators that you will ever find in the pages of a mystery novel. Still they all trudge on, doing their job, however grudgingly, and, finally, they do reach a conclusion and get their man. Frankly, by this point, I had a lot of sympathy for the murderer and I was sort of hoping he would get away. That's really not the reaction that a reader of a murder mystery should have.
One of the things that I have enjoyed so much in the previous books in the series has been the sly humor which the authors have slipped into the narrative from time to time, often to drive home a point. This book had very little of that. Early in the book, there was one bit that gave me a chuckle, but after that it was mostly sheer, boring routine and much attention paid to each detective's complaints about the society, about life, and about his job.
But perhaps that is just true to life and that's what the detective's lot is all about. It may be realistic, but it doesn't make for very compelling reading.
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