Murder at the Savoy was first published in 1970 under the title Polis, polis, potatismos. This is the sixth book in the Martin Beck series and the sixth I’ve read in chronological order. The Swedish title is explained in a scene where Gunvald Larsson gets mad with two miserably lazy policemen, Kristiansson and Kvant. This two had, instead of obeying his orders to arrest a suspect at Arlanda airport, been arguing with a man whose three-year-old son had shouted ‘polis, polis, potatismo’, literally ‘police, police, mashed potatoes’, while the two policemen were eating a hot dog with mashed potatoes. This rhyme was used in the sixties by young Swedes when calling policemen pigs chanting ‘polis, polis, potatisgris‘, literally ‘police, police, potato pig’, a play on words with no translation.
The argument is simple. Viktor Palgrem, a wealthy Swedish businessman, whose interests are not always legitimate, is shot in the head during a dinner at the Hotel Savoy in Malmö. The local police assume that his murder was driven by political or corporate interests, given the relevance of Palgrem. Inspector Martin Beck is sent from Stockholm to lead the investigation.
To my taste the more books I read in this series, the more I like them. For me this is one of the best so far. In this case Söjwall and Wahlöö have increased the strong political content and social criticism presented in all their work, but not so evident on their previous books. This goes without saying that it doesn’t mean a diminishing interest in the plot, but quite the opposite, Murder at the Savoy is a superb police procedural. The argument is well developed and the characters are credible and endearing; they will remain in our memory long after reading this book. The influence on Henning Mankell’s Wallander series is very clear. A real pleasure. Strongly recommended, best with the rest of the books in the series.
Read an excerpt HERE (with an Introduction by Michael Carlson) in the English version.
Read an Introduction by Arne Dahl (In Spanish) in the Spanish version.