The second Martin Beck novel takes the Swedish detective to Budapest to search for a missing journalist. He has nothing to go on except the address of the hotel that the man stayed in for a night before vanishing. Once again the emphasis is on the dogged pursuit of tiny pieces of information that slowly build into a criminal case. It's from the most trivial of details that the solution eventually comes.
The character study of Martin Beck - he's always "Martin Beck", never "Martin" or "Beck" deepens further in this book. He has to leave a family holiday to take the case but he seems more alive on his solitary trip than he did at any point in the last book. Perhaps his family, rather than his job, is the source of his strain? It will be interesting to watch him develop in subsequent novels.
It's a low-key book that works as a part of a larger narrative but would be slightly disappointing as a stand-alone title. The biggest disappointment is the translation. There is some very sloppy grammar in places, which makes me think that some of the other weaknesses in the writing (people are continually saying things "solemnly", for example) are the fault of the translator rather than the authors.
In all, a decent but uninspired continuation of the series.