The Fire Engine That Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
Originally published as Brandbilen som försvann, 1969
Sphere Books, 1973
I bought my copy of the book
Martin Beck book 5
I’ve arrived at the halfway point in the Martin Beck series and I’m still surprised by the books.
- They feel contemporary, despite the references to late 1960’s political crises and the Vietnam War.
- The plotting, even when the pace mimics the first installment, Roseanna, was still shocking.
- I’m surprised that I can keep so many detectives straight. It’s not just Beck and his team that’s made up of distinct characters: the investigation calls on a detective or two in another city and those characters are distinct as well.
- I appreciate a few homages to the series that I see in Henning Mankell and Leif G.W. Persson now. Persson’s Bäckström is an extreme version of the character Gunnar Larsson in this book. The neverending car smuggling ring that Wallander investigates is central to this particular episode of the Beck series.
- I’m taken aback by how young the sex workers in this book are.
The Fire Engine That Disappeared focuses on a horrible fire that kills a number of people in an apartment building as well as someone’s suicide that happened around the same time. It’s not surprising that the two events are related: it seems especially obvious in a book as short as this. There’s no room for plot digressions. The arson scenes and explanations of the fire investigation are incredibly vivid and harrowing. The actual investigation is slow in parts and then incredibly fast in others, and the fact that the arson was so extreme amps up the tension throughout the story. Finally, I’m particularly fond of this installment because we actually get some of Beck’s backstory- why he became a policeman, his childhood, and his family life today. It’s about time.
On a side note, I thought of Moira’s blog during a description of a particular blue corduroy suit that is very 1969.
I continue to be a huge fan of this series, and I’m inclined to finish reading this series soon. It might not make for the most varied blog fodder, but reading a few authors in bulk seems to be my latest reading pattern.
11 thoughts on “The Fire Engine That Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö”
I couldn’t agree with you more about the quality of this series, Rebecca. Isn’t it fantastic? Glad this lived up to your expectations.
I understand what all the fuss is about now that I’ve read 5 really good installments. I’m not sure many writers can top that, you know?
There’s nothing wrong with reading in bulk. I could continue to read Highsmith until I got tired but wanted to spread them out. Meanwhile, I am reading another Patricia Melo. I need to get back to the Martin Beck series. So much to read, so little time.
I look forward to your Melo review: still haven’t read her. And I’m glad I’m not alone in the binge-reading 🙂
I love the Beck books – so much so that I couldn’t actually bear to watch the adaptation! I read the series one after the other in a big binge and they were strong enough to stand that. Still the best Scandi-crime, in my view.
I’m glad you think all of it stands up: I have the rest of them on my shelf, now to get more reading time.
I haven’t read but one of these, and need to continue on with them. This one certainly sounds interesting, based on your review.
Sorry for the delayed response, Tracy! I think the series is getting better, and I’m sad I only have 5 to go. Hope you enjoy it. Since I’m not doing the Global Reading Challenge this year I’m catching up on lots of Swedish stuff I’ve had sitting around for awhile.
This is one of the best of the series, in my opinion.
Good to know, Kathy. Have you read them all? I’ve been doling them out but have read 2 in the last year.
[…] still a fan of the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. The two installments I read this year were good in terms of plot, and I”m still hooked because of the […]