Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Why do I love Swedish police procedurals?

I’ve already written here about my addiction to Henning Mankell’s novels.  I’ve recently gone back a few decades to the series that I believe inspired him, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo’s Martin Beck novels (they were a married couple) from the late 1960s and 70s, which have been reissued in nice Vintage Crime/ Black Lizard editions.  In the last week or two I read the first two, Roseanna and The Man Who Went Up in Smoke.  I preferred the first but I’ll select this random passage towards the end of the second to evoke some of the appeal of these novels for me.  Martin Beck is back in Stockholm from an investigation in Hungary, talking with his partner Kollberg:

“A dreadful thought suddenly occurred to me,” said Kollberg.  “It’s five days since the opening of the crayfish season and you probably haven’t eaten a single one.  Or do they have crayfish in Hungary?

“Not so far as I know,” said Martin Beck.  “I didn’t see any.”

“Get yourself dressed.  I’ve ordered a table.”

The dining room was crowded, but a corner table had been reserved for them and laid for a crayfish dinner.  On each of their plates lay a paper hat and a bib, and each of the bibs had a verse printed in red across it.  They sat down and Martin Beck looked dismally at his hat, made of blue crepe paper, with a shiny blue visor and POLICE in gold letters above the visor.