Review: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – The Locked Room

Continuing my read through the Martin Beck series, I’m now on the eighth book and dismayed to realise that I’m heading towards the conclusion of The Story of a Crime. At TLRoomthe end of The Abominable Man, Martin Beck had been seriously wounded by a shot to the chest from a rooftop sniper. In The Locked Room  we see the slow recovery of the character as he becomes intrigued by a classic locked room mystery.

In Stockholm, a woman holds up a bank and in the process accidentally shoots and kills a customer who tries to disarm her. Across town, Karl Edvin Svard is found shot dead through the heart in a room locked from within, with no evidence of the firearm. The first case is investigated by the bank robbery squad, whose gung-ho attitude has farcical results. Meanwhile Martin Beck, who has been languishing on sick leave for 15 months is given the case of the locked room. By looking at the background of the victim he hits on an interesting connection between the shootings.

This is classic Sjöwall and Wahlöö where two disparate investigations are pieced together with painstaking care until a resolution is reached. The bank robbery squad is headed by a new character to the series, the aptly nicknamed Bulldozer Olsson, but there are some other interesting additions too, most notably the notorious bank robbers Malmstrom and Mohren. Neither police nor villains seem particularly competent.

I suppose the least interesting aspect of the book is the locked room element. They’re not my favourite type of crime books, and I wasn’t much interested in the reveal of how the crime had been committed, although there is a clever twist to the culprit being caught. What the locked room element does though, is introduce the character of Rhea Nielsen, a new love interest for Martin Beck.

Perhaps not the best book in the series but redeemed I think by the sly ending.

The book has also been reviewed at The Game’s Afoot, Eurocrime and Crime Segments.

10 thoughts on “Review: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – The Locked Room

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – I think you hit on something important. Of course, the whole of this series is brilliant in my opinion. But for this particular entry, I think it does have more impact for readers who enjoy the locked-room plot point. Still, you’re right that the characters are as always so well-drawn and interesting.


  2. Pingback: Petrona Award and more | Scandinavian Crime Fiction

    1. I think this is a series that you’ll enjoy Tracy. I still think Roseanna (book 1) is the best in the series so I’ll be interested to hear what you make of it.


  3. kathy d.

    I liked the locked-room mystery part of the plot, though it ingeious, that Sjowall and Wahloo must have spent days on this and tried out many possible solutions. That said, I didn’t think this was the best book in the series, but was intrigued by how Martin Beck put the two different crimes together.


    1. Yes I suppose that’s the attraction for locked-room mysteries. That there is a possible solution even of the reader can’t think of one at straight away. It is good how things come together.


  4. kathy d.

    Very good observation. But now DNA evidence would have been gotten from the victim and from all suspects; all of it would have been compared on the highest-tech computer software. Then the real culprit would have been found very quickly. And that would have meant a one-chapter book, if that.


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