The sixth in the Martin Beck series is the most overtly political so far. When Viktor Palmgren, a wealthy businessman, is shot dead at the Savoy hotel in Malmo, Martin Beck is called from Stockholm to investigate. The assignment means the return of Per Mansson, the relaxed Malmo detective, and Benny Skacke, the ambitious young detective transferred away from Stocklholm after his misjudgment at the end of the last book. [amtap book:isbn=0007242964]
As he investigates the dead man's unscrupulous, and likely corrupt, business practices, Martin Beck finds himself sympathising more with the killer than the victim. It's here that the authors beat us about the head a little with the key themes of the series.
The concept of a murder victim without whom society is arguably better off is hardly a new one and I'm not convinced it was even in 1970, when this was written. Sjowall and Wahloo use it, in unsubtle fashion, to explore the injustices within Swedish society and expose the class structure on which they rest.
This is the simplest mystery of the series so far. Indeed there's no real mystery at all and few twists on the way to the solution. Luck plays a strong role, as ever, as does incompetence. It's the former that provides the key evidence in the case but, were it not for the latter, the killer would have been caught within hours of the crime.
As usual, the writing is taut, witty and observant. Though not the strongest in the series, the drily realistic portrayal of police work remains as compelling as ever.