The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (Shane's book 22, 2008)

Now this is how you do a serial killer novel. The third in the Martin Beck series deals with a man who is raping and murdering young girls in Stockholm's parks. The victims in Vargas and Lucarelli were little more than manequinns employed simply to keep the plot ticking along but here Sjowall and Wahloo create a real sense of a horror being perpetrated. They achieve this by hinting at the details of the crimes rather than relishing them and by showing us emotion instead of blood. Sjowall and Wahloo fashion a classic thriller plot: a mugger who has evaded the police for weeks is a likely witness to one of the killings, as is a three-year-old boy. The mugger can't be found and the boy can't make himself understood. But just when you think you know what kind of book this is going to be, the authors sweep away the set-up and bring us back into familiar territory.

Once again the police solve the case through persistence, legwork and more than a little luck. Ingenious detection and leaps of logic are seldom a factor in the world of Martin Beck. The solution to the killings is in fact sitting in front of the detectives from the beginning of the novel; we're aware of it and can only wait until things click into place.

More so than the first two books in the series, the mystery is not really the point of this book. It's merely an excuse to explore a Swedish society that is changing and, in the view of Sjowall and Wahloo, not for the better. This is the best of the series so far and I'm really looking forward to book four.