Review: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – Murder at the Savoy

Continuing my read through the excellent Martin Beck series, I’ve just finished Murder at the Savoy, a slightly more downbeat read than I had expected. A dinner at the Savoy Hotel in Malmo ends in disaster when one of the guests, Viktor Palmgren is shot by an unknown assassin. The case is given to DI Per Mansson but the police have already wasted valuable time in the aftermath of the shooting. When a suspect is identified, the disaster prone duo, Kvant and Kristiansson, are asked to intercept him in Stockholm and the man escapes. Martin Beck is sent to Malmo to assist Mansson and by sifting through the clues and interviewing suspects, the case is finally solved. However, Martin Beck is filled with a sense of ennui as he considers the exploitative business practices of the victim and his instinctive sympathy for the killer.

Although the majority of the books in this series can be read as standalones, I found this to be one of the less accessible novels and the tone not particularly representative of the earlier books in the series. Whereas other books clearly comment on developments in Swedish society, the authors’ clear disapproval of contemporary business practices came across clearly in the narrative. Admittedly it is through the eyes of the various detectives that we come to see the amorality of the dead man’s working and personal life (the victim will hardly be missed by his family and friends) but it often felt like it was the writers who were speaking rather than the characters. It makes for a sometimes preachy read, although, as I have come to expect from this series, there are some wonderful light touches inserted into the book. In particular the Kvant and Kristiansson episode is very funny and reflects the original Swedish title of the book which can be translated as ‘Police, Police, Potato Pig.’

There are some intriguing developments for Martin Beck as a character in the narrative which may well be developed in the later books and also some interesting insights into the changing nature of marriage. I enjoyed the book but was glad to leave the slightly grim tone behind. I’m hoping that the next in the series, The Abominable Man, will return to a lighter touch as the authors cast their gaze around Swedish society.

I bought my copy of the book.

15 thoughts on “Review: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – Murder at the Savoy

  1. Sarah – An excellent review, for which thanks. I agree completely that this novel, perhaps more than some of the others in this series, reflects the authors’ views and one does hear their personal voices very clearly. I can see why you felt preached at. I must say though, I forgive them that, since there are lots of very good things about this novel and the whole series is so strong in my opinion that it gets past that.

  2. Lagging behind, as per usual, I’ve not read past the first one, although the rest of them are on the pile (more money than sense, when it comes to buying books). Roseanna (?) I think it was, can’t remember that it left a major impression on me, otherwise I would surely have dug back into the series sooner.
    I suppose in a series of this length, it’s inevitable that you’ll meet one or two along the way that don’t keeping raising the bar.

  3. I was fine with this book, then again I agree with Sjowall and Wahloo’s point of view, or Martin Beck’s, I should say. Beck is observing what’s going on around him and the sordid businesses being run by the victim and his colleagues, trying to show how decadent the society is and in what horrendous ways some rich people become and stay rich. I thought it was seen and thought about by Beck and within his character. It was realistic, although grim. But a lot of the practices of landlords — in my city — are terrible. And the other wrong which Beck is revealing are very true here, so it was realistic.

    • Hi Kathy – like you I agree with the point of view, I guess it’s the extent to which it dominates the story I had difficulties with.It hasn’t put me off the series though. I’m looking forward to the next book. Glad to see you back online after the storm!

  4. I don’t really remember reading this one at all – can’t have left that strong an impression on me! I do remember enjoying The Abominable Man, though, so hopefully you will like that one a bit better.

  5. And since the library doesn’t have The Abominable Man, except on audiobook, which I don’t do, I just purchased it. Look forward to your review when you get to it.

  6. Pingback: The Best of November’s Reading « crimepieces

  7. Pingback: Review: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – The Abominable Man « crimepieces

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