Read Den vedervärdige mannen från Säffle by Maj Sjöwall Free Online
Book Title: Den vedervärdige mannen från Säffle|
The author of the book: Maj Sjöwall
Date of issue: 1982
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 724 KB
Read full description of the books Den vedervärdige mannen från Säffle:[9/10]
Five decades after initial publication, the Story of Crime sequence by Swedish authors Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo is still considered one of the best police procedurals ever written. Each book is introduced by a famous contemporary crime writer, and for this seventh episode it is the turn of local author Jens Lapidus to explain why and how it has marked his career:
It was the feeling that someone had for the first time managed to describe criminality and police work in Stockholm adequately, in a way that was real, as it might actually have happened.
Lapidus is referring also to the movie version of the book, where they used an alternative title : The Man on the Roof . Where he comments that the events might have happened all I could think about was how similar the case placed in the year 1972 by the authors is to an actual manhunt that I can only mention in spoilers: (view spoiler)[ the case of Christopher Dormer in February 2013, in Los Angeles, is a frighteningly accurate copycat of the disgruntled police officer from Stockholm. (hide spoiler)]
The present novel has another particularity that sets it apart from its predecessors, as I consider it the closest the authors came to writing a modern, American-style, action thriller, with machine guns, explosions and car crashes building up to an edge of the seat, breath-taking finale. Until now, Martin Beck and his colleagues were spending all of their working hours analyzing evidence, interviewing witnesses, poring over old records. You know, the mostly boring, routine, unglamorous combination of gumshoe and eye-strain. This novel starts in the same vein, but there is a sense of urgency, of impending doom, like a time-bomb counting down the seconds before it blows up in the officer’s faces.
The event that sets the clock ticking is a gruesome murder of an elderly, sick man from an isolated hospital ward in the capital. What puts this murder in the top priority spot for the whole police force is the identity of the victim:
The abominable man from Saffle. That’s what we called Stig Nyman.
Nyman was a former police comissioner, or captain of a precinct in the city. His nickname was earned by his old-school, hard-fisted methods of training new recruits and by his habit of abusing his authority and administering a personal brand of physical punishments. Think of the staff-sergeant from boot camp in Full Metal Jacket and you might get an idea about Nyman’s personality. He was not a well-liked person, especially when you add his habit of lying under oath, counterfeiting evidence and intimidating witnesses. As Martin Beck investigates Nyman’s past, he has no shortage of suspects and plenty of evidence that the police has been covering up his abuses for decades, ignoring the numerous complaints from Nyman’s victims.
This here is a two-pronged attack on the whole system from the militant authors:
- denouncing the old metods and the image of the police officer as morally spotless, honest and realiable.
- breaking the law of silence, the tribal comradeship that keeps the policemen from accusing one of their own brothers, that hides corruption and abuses within the ranks, “l’esprit de corps” that stipulates you must stand by your partner no matter what.
So the main theme of the book boils down to the old adage: “who watches the watchmen?” with Beck exclaiming at one point: The general public has no rights vis-a-vis the police! . The real subject of the debate becomes what makes a good cop or a bad cop? And should the police have a monopoly on violence? Should their statements be automatically considered true and accurate? The next quote from the novel written in 1971 sounds disturbingly familiar in 2014 (see earlier spoiler):
If you really want to be sure of getting caught, the thing to do is to kill a policeman. This truth applies in most places and especially in Sweden. There are plenty of unsolved murders in Swedish criminal history, but not one of them involves the murder of a policeman. When a member of their own troop meets with misfortune, the police seem to acquire many times their usual energy.
What the reader experiences during the lecture is a reversal of roles, as the victim becomes the accused party, and the yet unidentified killer becomes a man pushed beyond the limits of endurance by an unjust system (view spoiler)[ the account of the death of his wife is another chilling example of police abuse that sounds painfully familiar from newsfeeds today (hide spoiler)].
Martin Beck had seen his face, at once the face of a child and of an old man. How was that possible? And his eyes – insane with fear or hate or desperation, or maybe just utterly vacant.
In the previous couple of Martin Beck novels I have noticed an exacerbation of criticism of capitalist values and moral corruption from the two socialist- leaning autors. Such rants are present here also, but they do not threaten to overpower the actual story. Actually, for me, the present episode is a return to the focus of the first novels in the series, concentrating more on the human suffering and making Martin Beck personally involved in the case after the detachment and relative passivity he displayed in the last couple of investigations. Beck feels guilty about his own apathy and conformism in ignoring allegations of abuse from his fellow policemen, so he tries to make amends (view spoiler)[ by putting his own life in the line of fire as a futile gesture of atonement (hide spoiler)]
In the end, the novel remains a police procedural and not a lone-wolf crusade, so Martin Beck has his usual back-up team to assist him. The same level of excellence and authenticity in characterization that I have come to expect from the series is deployed when the narrative is revealed through the eyes of eager but chronically tired Einar Ronn; gruff and aloof Gunvald Larsson; cynical yet shy and sensual Lennart Kollberg; sleazy but brilliant Fredrik Melander – familiar faces to the regular readers of the series. The scene stealers of the book for me were surprisingly the couple of redneck patrolmen from Skane, the incompetent, tall, blond and stupid duo that was usually tasked with the comic relief in the economy of the books. (view spoiler)[ This time they made me cry out in pain at the injustice of Fate (hide spoiler)]
Neither of them was a particularly zealous policeman. Kvant almost always reported whatever he happened to see and hear, but he managed to hear amazingly little. Kristianson more of an out-and-out slacker who simply ignored everything that might cause complications or unnecessary trouble.
I’ll stop here with the plot details and the character profiles before I run into more spoilers, but be prepared for a spectacular and graphically violent finale. I have a couple more quotes saved though, one as an illustration of the novel’s urban setting that is also social criticism:
Stockholm inhabitants looked on with sorrow and bitterness as serviceable and irreplaceable old apartment houses were razed to make way for sterile office buildings. Powerless, they let themselves be deported to distant suburbs while the pleasant, lively neighborhoods were reduced to rubble. The inner city became a clamorous, all but impassable construction site from which the new city slowly and relentlessly arose with its broad, noisy traffic arteries, its shining facades of glass and light metal, its dead surfaces of flat concrete, its bleakness and its desolation.
... and the other one about Martin Beck’s opinion on police procedures, relevant for the series as a whole:
Police work is built on realism, routine, stubborness and system. It’s true that a lot of difficult cases are cleared up by coincidence, but it’s equally true that coincidence is an elastic concept that mustn’t be confused with luck or accident. In a criminal investigation, it’s a question of weaving the net of coincidence as fine as possible. And expeience and industry play a larger role there than brilliant inspiration. A good memory and ordinary common sense are more valuable qualities than intellectual brilliance.
Intuition has no place in practical police work. Intuition is not even a quality, any more than astrology and phrenology are sciences.
Conclusion: one of the best entries in the Martin Beck series, one that can be read as a stand-alone. I can understand why so many crime authors praise Sjowall and Wahloo effusively.
Read information about the authorMaj Sjöwall is a Swedish author and translator. She is best known for the collaborative work with her partner Per Wahlöö on a series of ten novels about the exploits of Martin Beck, a police detective in Stockholm. In 1971, the fourth of these books, The Laughing Policeman (a translation of Den skrattande polisen, originally published in 1968) won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Novel.They also wrote novels separately.
Sjöwall had a 13 year relationship with Wahlöö which lasted until his death in 1975.
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