Martin Beck is now a Detective Superintendant. But his promotion hasn’t made him any more cheerful; if anything, it’s only confirmed his gloomy belief that the best way to solve crimes is by hard slog, dogged persistence, a grimly realistic view of human nature – and the occasional flash of sheer intuition. His team of colleagues, headed by Lennart Kollberg and Frederick Melander, are used to his stubborn ways and his frequent colds. His wife Inga isn’t as tolerant.
The Laughing Policeman begins on the evening of a big demonstration in Stockholm against the Vietnam war; as the police are dealing with protesters outside the American embassy, a mass shooting on a bus in a suburb ends with nine dead, including one of Martin Beck’s team. The trail to find the murderer leads Beck back to an unsolved case from the past that had puzzled the Swedish police for years.
The Laughing Policeman is the fourth of the Martin Beck series, dramatised by BBC Radio 4. Written by the husband and wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.
For some perverse reason (the BBC do not say why), it is not possible to listen to The Laughing Policeman.
The Martin Beck series, written over a period of ten years 1965-1975, gives an interesting insight into Sweden of the mid-1960s. It was to later influence writers like Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo.
In an ambitious project, BBC Radio 4 are dramatizing the entire Martin Beck series.
The next book in the series, The Fire Engine That Disappeared. A case of arson hinges on finding a man who fits an impossibly vague description.
Unusual for the BBC these dramatisations are being kept on-line for a year, not seven days. Though does beg the question why not keep indefinitely?
In parallel BBC Radio 4 has a series Foreign Bodies looking at European Detective Fiction, only they could not have chosen a worst presenter than the ghastly Mark Lawson if they had tried. True to form, this series is only being kept on-line for seven days.