The Locked Room by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö


Esta entrada es bilingüe. Para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse por la pantalla hacia abajo.

Translated from the Swedish by Paul Britten Austin. Introduction from Michael Connelly. Original title Det slutna rummet, 1972. This translation first published by Random House Inc. New York, 1973. Third edition published by Harper Perennial 2007. 303 pages. ISBN: 978-0-00-724298-6.

The Locked Room is the eighth book in the Martin Beck mystery series. Beck, while still recovering from the gunshot wounds received at the end of the previous book, returns to his job as head of the National Murder Squad and receives a case file to look into. It happens to be an unsolved case. A man was found shot to death in a room locked from the inside. It could have been a suicide, except for a minor detail, “to shoot yourself without a gun – that’s not easy”. No weapon has been found in the room.

Meanwhile Kollberg, and Larsson have been assigned to a special squad headed by a district attorney, the incompetent Sten “Bulldozer” Olsson, to investigate a bank robbery in which a customer was killed. The two cases seem unrelated and both investigations will run in parallel through the book.

I have very much enjoyed reading The Locked Room. The story did captured my attention from the first pages. It is peppered with some doses of humour and the plot is clever and nicely woven.

‘…. Among other things, an Australian cavalryman gave a million to a kid who held his horse for him when he took a piss.’
‘Does a horse have to be held while it pisses?’

It is also interesting to contrast how each, Beck and Olsson, manages their case. Besides Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö address social and political issues, and offer a critical view of the Welfare State. This is Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö at their very best. 

‘Stockholm has one of the highest suicide rates in the world……For the fact of the matter is that the so-called Welfare Sate abounds with sick, poor, and lonely people, leaving at best on dog food, who are left uncared for until they waste away and die in their rat-hole tenements.’

The Locked Room has been reviewed by Maxine at Euro Crime, NacyO at the crime segments, Norman at Crime Scraps, Terry Halligan at Euro Crime (2), Simon Quicke at inside books,   

La habitación cerrada de Maj Sjöwall y Per Wahlöö

La habitación cerrada es el octavo libro de la serie de misterio protagonizada por Martin Beck. Beck, mientras se recupera de las heridas de bala recibidas al finalizar el libro anterior, regresa a su puesto como Jefe de la brigada nacional de homicidios y recibe un expediente para echarle un vistazo. Resulta ser un caso sin resolver. Un hombre fue encontrado muerto a tiros en una habitación cerrada con llave desde el interior. Podría haber sido un suicidio, a no ser por  un detalle insignificante,  “pegarse un tiro, sin un arma de fuego – no resulta fácil“. No se ha encontrado ningún arma en la habitación.

Mientras tanto Kollberg y Larsson han sido asignados a un escuadrón especial encabezado por un fiscal de distrito, el incompetente Sten “Bulldozer” Olsson, para investigar el robo de un banco en el que murió uno de los clientes. Los dos casos parecen no estar relacionados. Ambas investigaciones se desarrollarán en paralelo a lo largo del libro.

He disfrutado mucho con la lectura de La habitación cerrada. El relato ha captado mi atención desde las primeras páginas, Está sazonado con algunas dosis de humor y la trama es inteligente y está muy bien entrelazada.

“…. Entre otras cosas, un soldado de caballería australiano le dio un millón a un niño para que sujetara a su caballo mientras hacía pis. “
“¿Hay que sujetar a un caballo cuando mea?

También es interesante contrastar cómo cada uno, Beck y Olsson, dirige su caso. Además Maj Sjöwall y Per Wahlöö abordan cuestiones sociales y políticas, y nos ofrecen una visión crítica del Estado del Bienestar. Se trata de Maj Sjöwall y Per Wahlöö en su mejor momento.

“Estocolmo tiene uno de los mayores índices de suicidio en el mundo … … El hecho es que en el ‘llamado’ Estado del Bienestar proliferan las personas enfermas, pobres y solitarias, viviendo en el mejor de los casos a base de comida para perros, que han quedado desamparadas hasta que se consumen y mueren en casas de vecinos que son como ratoneras.”

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13 thoughts on “The Locked Room by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö

  1. I really liked this one, too, Jose Ignacio, in fact I’ve loved all this series. Is this the one where Martin wanders around the old docks and shipyards, and sees the “suicide wagon”? The locked room mystery was very clever, I think, and somehow these books do not date even though they are “of their time”.

  2. José Ignacio – Thanks for reminding me of this excellent series. Like Dorte, I just loved the plots of the Martin Beck novels. Besides being thoroughly enjoyable to read, they also serve as useful lessons on how to write a good crime fiction plot.

  3. Yes, they did know how to write a good crime fiction plot. I think Sjowall and Wahloo must have spent a lot of time figuring out this locked-room murder method, figuring out logistics, distances, etc. This was a lot of fun, and the solution was clever.

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