Miriam and Douglas recently attended the Edinburgh International Book Festival and listened to Ian Rankin interview Maj Sjowall. They had a chance to speak to her as she signed their copies of Roseanna, the first book in the series of ten that she wrote with her husband Per Wahloo . Maj was a very engaging and entertaining speaker in a dry, world weary, Scandinavian kind of way. She complained about contemporary Swedish politics and the worsening of the distribution of wealth and privatisation of schooling etc just as she said she had done when her husband Per and her got involved in Swedish politics in the sixties.
Roseanna is the first series of ten books following the career of Martin Beck the typical disfunctional, drinking and smoking lone male detective. Maj described the series as one meta-crime unfolding over the time span of the ten stories with social and political events as the necessary backdrop.
If you are a fan of contemporary models of crime fiction, with their complex psychological subtexts and weaving plot lines, the style of this first book is very straightforward and deserves the easy reading literalism it encourages. It is a much easier read than, say, Stieg Larsson’s Dragon tattoo series or Denise Mina’s Garnethill trilogy with their their brooding and bloody cruelty and widespread corrupting political backdrop. A similar comparison could be drawn between very different shows The Killing and Arne Dahl on television perhaps.
The story opens with an undoubtedly female, unidentified, naked body which gathers a crowd on the side of a canal. By a process of slow, painstaking detective work the body is identified. This process takes months and months and as it was written some time ago events such as waiting for a package to be delivered from overseas seem to take an extraordinarily long time. The story appears before our eyes in a manner similar to the time frame of The Killing and builds to a satisfying crescendo.
It may not be the kind of novel that requires a second read but it certainly plants a seed in the reader’s mind to get hold of the other 9 books in the series and enjoy reading them as well.