Murder at the Savoy by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö


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.

Murder at the Savoy has been reviewed by Maxine at Euro Crime and Norman at Crime Scraps.

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.

Maj Söjwall & Per Wahlöö

Original title: Polis, polis, potatismos (1970)

Asesinato en el Savoy

Traducción: Martin Lexell y Manuel Abella, 2010

RBA Libros, 2010

Number of pages: 272

ISBN: 978-84-9867-831-4

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15 thoughts on “Murder at the Savoy by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

  1. >José Ignacio – Thanks so much for this fine review. I’m also very glad you’re enjoying Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series as much as you are. To me, it’s one of the finest police procedural series there is. I look forward to reading your reviews of the next books in the series.

  2. >Lovely review, Jose Ignacio, and I agree, these books are really fantasstic. I enjoyed each one more than the last too, I think – and I was sad to have read the last one (The Terrorists) earlier this year. A truly great, and enduring, series, both talented and intelligent. (Even if one does not agree with all the points, they are intelligently constructed.)

  3. >Is it true that Sjöwall and Wahlöo are an antecedent for Mankell´s Wallander series?I have read several of Mankell books because I always enjoy the swedish setting as I spent some months there as a student, but the novels are nothing out of the ordinary (for me). I am more on the Dorothy L. Sayer Lord Peter line. Thankyou for the review(by the way. do you like Flamenco?)

  4. >Margot appreciate your comment.Maxine, fully agree with you.Dr. J. The Wallander series is very much in debt with Söjwal and Wahlöö, maybe I'll right a post about it later on. But I do like Wallander very much. Flamenco is different, probably genetic. One of my grandmothers was from Andalusia.

  5. >What a lovely review. I only recently discovered these books and read the first one earlier this year. I plan to read them all in order too so it will be a while until I get to this one. I love knowing I have so many excellent books to look forward to

  6. >Jose Ignacio-I finished Murder at the Savoy and my immediate reaction was I wanted to read the tenth and last book for me. [number 7 in the series]I even ordered some of the other books in the series that I had read years ago as my versions had a much smaller print font. I can't manage small fonts now.People who are just starting on the series have a real treat ahead of them. I read six of them more than 20 years ago, and have forgotten a lot of the details, so will be able to enjoy them again thanks to the Harper Perennial editions.

  7. >Thanks, I think RBA eds. are now selling these (Sjöwalland Wahlöo books by 4,95€ at the nwes agent)As I told you last week I am a great fan of Dexter´s Morse stories and think that Wallander copies a lot from him (e.g. Morse got diabetes and Wallander too, Morse dies and wallander ends…)

  8. >I don´t remember much of this book (so perhaps it is time to reread them again soon?), but I remember the stupidity of Kristiansson and Kvant quite clearly. And the funny thing is that in "Pippi Longstocking" there is a couple of policemen, Kling and Klang, who are just as stupid.

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