My timing's is awful but suddenly, I'm dead weary of politics, national politics. Rather than writing about how this has happened, I want to write about something entirely different: mysteries, my favorite mystery or crime writers. I probably should begin with Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep, or with Ross MacDonald and his Lew Archer series and The Goodbye Look. Or more recently Michael Connelly and his detective Harry Bosch series set in Los Angeles. After all, I began my working life after college in Los Angeles.
I love those books and many others like it, but I choose to start with Sweden and with Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's Martin Beck series, which, along with Henning Mankell's Wallander series, are the very best kind of mystery fiction. And I am fully aware that others have other lists, but this is mine.
My very first encounter with the Swedish couple's series was with Roseanna, their first novel of the 10 book series. Roseana opened a whole new world for me, a world in which I glimpsed the lives of others, their professional lives, their social problems, and how their national homicide police worked together. And I was captivated.
I visited Finland, Sweden, and Norway in 1976 or so, on a World Health Organization Traveling Fellowship, and Finland, again in 1980 on a project for the National Academy of Science, and I fell in love with the three countries.
It was fascinating to me to see such small nations portrayed by Sjowall and Wahloo in a 10 novel series about a one man, Martin Beck and his associates in the national Homicide Squad. And later to encounter Wallander in the novels of Henning Mankell.
I understand that the two series have terrific followers internationally, and that people travel to Sweden to take tours to see first-hand the places the novels portray: Malmo, Stockholm, Ystad, and also Copenhagen, as it turns up in these stories. I'm not interested in fandom; I am interested in the lives of others, and these novels are what opened their world to me, a world that, in my visits there, made me realize that crime novels tell us a lot, but they also tell us more about how people a professional class of police work in other places, and for some reason I find that fascinating. Roseanna, The Man Who Went up in Smoke, and Murder at the Savoy are among my favorites in the Martin Beck series.