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 the 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.