The seventh Martin Beck novel is odd because it’s thematically very similar to the previous volume, Murder at the Savoy. Once again an unpleasant and powerful man is murdered and once again it’s not obviously a bad thing. The difference is that this victim is a high-ranking policeman, brutally murdered in his hospital room. While the last book was about the damage done by the ruthless pursuit of wealth, this one is about abuse of power, specifically police power. There are lots of asides on the role of the police, specifically the right of the police to kill. Typically for the series, the issue is given a quirky twist at the end.
The writing is once again sharp, wry and full of memorable turns of phrase, such as the police car which races along “on its own bawling carpet of sound”. The characters, as ever, are drawn with economy and empathy.
The investigation builds to a finale in which a recurring character is killed in surprisingly abrupt fashion and another key figure is badly wounded. The action sequence, which recalls a high profile incident from the late 1960s, feels a little bit Hollywood but is well handled.