Book Review: The Laughing Policeman: A Capsule Review

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö pull off a most remarkable feat in their iconic Martin Beck novel, The Laughing Policeman, by combining the grittiness, dogged determination, and sheer routine-driven pattern creation of the police procedural with Agatha Christie’s world of elegant solutions, extraordinary connections and brilliant reversals. Move over Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple! Bring in a heterogeneous bunch of colourful Swedish police officers headed by Chief Inspector Martin Beck; replace cosy, orderly, and prim and proper London and its suburbs with the tense, cold, and labyrinthine environs of Stockholm in the grip of an uneasily-festive Yuletide spirit; and locate a gruesome mass-murder—the apparently mindless and messy killing, late in the night, of all passengers on the final leg of a bus journey within the city—on the outskirts of Stockholm and you get the premise of The Laughing Policeman in a nut-shell.

In spite of the compelling premise, the seemingly unsolvable mystery, the eventual emergence of clues and connections, and ultimately, the elegant solution, the show-stealer in this narrative is the brilliant depiction of the remarkably realistic process by which extraordinary connections are unearthed. Enough said. Read it!

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