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Murder at the Savoy    by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo Amazon.com order for
Murder at the Savoy
by Maj Sjowall
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Vintage, 2009 (1971)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The introduction to Murder at the Savoy calls the police procedurals written by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo 'actual parents of a literary tradition.' That is surely so. It also hails the writing as giving crime fiction a whole new face, using terse wording, and giving the reader a no-holds-barred look at the social and political threads behind any police work.

That may well be, but I didn't consider the ramifications of all this in the text. I simply enjoyed a well-written and engrossing story, which I closed while still wanting more. A CEO, in the process of giving a speech at a company dinner, is approached by an unknown assailant and shot in the head. The assailant then calmly walks out through a floor-to-ceiling window and disappears into the night.

Thus starts a bumbling investigation that proves how human even policemen can be. One hand almost doesn't know what the other is doing. The resulting investigation plods ahead, even with setbacks that would stop almost anyone else. Of course, the culprit is caught at the end due to the perseverance of the police force.

The policemen in this Swedish town are what I imagine any city or town might have each with their own agenda back in 1971 as well as today. Some with aspirations for higher positions. Some quietly riding out the last few months to retirement. A few with little tolerance or understanding of the criminal element they deal with every day. Martin Beck is the cohesive force that holds this particular station together.

Martin is rather laid back, thinking through each action before taking it. Quick to lay praise where it is deserved, he also can lash out at dereliction of duty or just plain stupidity. The husband and wife writing team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo wrote ten books in collaboration until Wahloo's death in 1975. Their writing stands the test of time and is as fresh today as then.

Theirs are all good books. I especially liked this one Murder at the Savoy. But, then, I might say the same about the next one of theirs I read.

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