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The Laughing Policeman (Martin Beck #4)

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,748 Ratings  ·  347 Reviews
In this classic police procedural, the ever-dyspeptic Martin Beck has nothing to be amused about, even though it's Christmastime. Åke Stenstrom, a young detective in Beck's squad, has just been killed in an unprecedented mass murder aboard a Stockholm city bus. Was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or did he push a murderer too far in his efforts to make a name ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1968)
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One of the things I dig most about the "Martin Beck" mysteries is that they are only named "Martin Beck" mysteries out of convenience. He's the highest ranking policeman in Sjowall and Wahloo's Stockholm Homicide Division, and a couple of the early books tended to focus on him, but as the series goes on the books can be about any of the men who work with Beck.

The Laughing Policeman revolves around two of the detectives: Lennart Kollberg and Åke Stenström. In fact, the central mystery of the book
Just reread this for work, but it's reminded me that I meant to go after the others in the series and work my way through them. I really do have to, because they're brilliant, and decades ahead of their time. Sorry the US, but your classic hardboiled fiction really does pale into insignificance next to Nordic Noir. Give me Sjöwall and Wahlöö every time.
Nancy Oakes
After finishing The Man on the Balcony, I decided to go back for more of Martin Beck and his colleagues, and I'm so happy I did. The Laughing Policeman is the fourth in the Martin Beck series, and so far it is my favorite from this writing duo.

While the police in Stockholm are busy at the American Embassy where a protest against the Vietnam War has turned very ugly, patrolmen Kvant and Kristiansson, the Keystone Cop-ish police officers who just so happened to have inadvertently solved the case i
Mar 15, 2014 Dorothy rated it really liked it
This book won the Edgar Award for best novel in 1971 and it is easy to see why. It is a mesmerizing tale right from the first sentence, maybe the best in this series that I have read so far.

As with the three earlier books, this one is deceptively simple in construction. It is told in laconic "this happened, then this happened" fashion, and it is hard for an amateur such as myself to deconstruct just why it is so good. But if the object of a writer is to entertain and hold the interest of the re
May 20, 2012 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, favorites

The fourth book featuring Stockholm Police Commissioner Martin Beck is probably the best known, due to a movie adaptation with Walther Matthau in the main role. I can understand its popularity, as it is my favorite so far in this ongoing police procedural series.
It is important to accentuate the procedural nature of the story, in order to give a warning to readers who expect all crime stories to have a super smart detective who solves cases by smoking a pipe ot twirling a moustache while the aut
Jan 14, 2013 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Story of a Crime Book 4: The One With A Mass Murder, a Cop Killing and Beck Takes a Back Seat

Simenon aside I don't think there are any other crime writers who have managed to capture so much in so few pages, once more Sjowall & Wahloo have written fantastic piece of genre fiction whilst holding a mirror up to society, it's failings and its strengths. Yes it is from their own particular Marxist viewpoint but they are not dogmatic about it.

This case is set in the winter of 1968, Europe is
This was only the second of the Edgar Best Novel winners so far that I knew for certain I had read before. But, I decided it would be worthwhile to reread it, and how right I was. Martin Beck, the protagonist of this series, is the spiritual ancestor of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander. He pretty much bears out any stereotype you may have about gloomy Swedes. But he's a heck of a policeman.
One thing I don't recall noticing when I first read this book back in the 1970s was how it is set in a defi
Maria João Fernandes
"An investigation which didn't even deserve to be called a guessing game."

O quarto do livro da famosa série do Martin Beck é mais uma prova da grandiosidade das mentes do casal Maj Sojwäll e Per Wahlöö.

Uma atmosfera cinzenta acompanha toda esta história. O tempo é horrível: faz frio, muito vento e chove constantemente. A escuridão parece permanente, mesmo durante o dia, como que para igualar a disposição deprimente das pessoas envolvidas.

"The Laughing Policeman" começa por nos mostrar uma das m
Book Review

As is sometimes true: I read books with common threads, one after the other, without fully realizing it. It was only while reading the 4th in a series by Henning Mankell that I noticed I was reading a crime novel whose title remarked on the facial expressions of joy and laughter (Mankell's The Man Who Smiled) much as this novel I'd just finished reading did (the 4th in the Martin Beck series: The Laughing policeman). Did I deliberately choose these books for their evocative titles? I
Sep 11, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
What a treat I am having reading the Martin Beck series in order; with this book I'm 4 down and 6 to go.
The skill of these writers is creating a brilliant Police procedural and here with The Laughing Policeman you are treated to one of the best.
All the detectives play their part in trying to solve a mass murder as they slowly begin to understand that that horrific crime was committed to stop one of their own from solving a much older murder.
I especially like the gentle interactions between the d
The Laughing Policeman, of course, is #4 in the ten-part detective Martin Beck series. As I noted earlier in the series, the Swedish author-couple Sjöwall and Wahlöö were known to use the police procedural genre as a vehicle for social commentary. I will focus on this point exclusively without revealing anything about how the crime is solved.

Previously, the authors made occasional subtle references to the failings of American culture, but starting in this book they give full expression to their
Ben Loory
Jan 19, 2011 Ben Loory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
yet another totally solid, fast-moving, absolutely hypnotic entry in the martin beck series which somehow manages to completely emotionally devastate me at the end (this time, via a joke). these people are insanely good, i have no idea how they did it, these books are all but perfect, i don't in the slightest understand how they work, how they gain their power, but it is tremendous... and what's more, it seems to be cumulative... 6 books left and i'm already starting to worry about withdrawal...
May 21, 2016 Jaret rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-500, audio-50
This was another episode in the Martin Beck series. Unfortunately, my library does not carry the print versions of this series, so I must continue with the audioseries. I think I'd like the print version better because a lot seems to get lost in translation with the audio version (someone else's interpretation of the words, etc). However, I still like the characters and series enough to continue. In this episode the character development was even stronger because Martin Beck was investigating th ...more
Apr 11, 2015 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gialli-nordici
Bello. Una trama dagli sviluppi lenti, senza colpi di scena clamorosi, anzi viene spesso sottolineata l’inettitudine della polizia di Stoccolma che non riesce a venire a capo dell’omicidio, avvenuto in una piovosa notte di novembre 1967, dei nove passeggeri di un autobus a due piani, nel centro della città, crivellati da innumerevoli colpi di pistola. Tra i passeggeri vi era un agente di polizia, che a quell’ora di notte non doveva essere in servizio, e proprio dalle indagini della squadra omici ...more
Mark Stevens
Aug 26, 2012 Mark Stevens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is no single hero. Martin Beck does the most brooding. He--mostly--puts the pieces together. Teamwork rules in The Laughing Policeman. The pieces come together through collaboration, not by lone wolves sniffing one trail.

Written in 1968, the style here is multiple points of view. The prose swoops down from extreme omniscience and scene-setting--a dry, matter-of-fact coolness to the tone--before picking up the thoughts and actions of one of the many cops in the ensemble.

The cops are warts-a
Oct 27, 2012 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to go back and re-read this having recently been sampling the wares of the new generation of Swedish detective fiction writers. In the early 80’s I read and enjoyed the entire Martin Beck series of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, but “The Laughing Policeman” was my favorite.

“The Laughing Policeman” is a police procedural published in 1968 when mass murders had yet to appear on the scene in Sweden. The subject of the investigation in the book purports to be the first. The technology available
Mar 29, 2008 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading the Martin Beck series chronologically and this is one of the best. The original Roseanna is withoutdoubt outstanding but this comes close.

The authors of these books are the inspiration for other great Swedish crime novelists such as Henning Mankell and you can see that reflected in the latters books. The bleak cold descriptions of the Sweden of the 1970's, not the clinical society we imagine today, is racked with crime, drink and drug problems. The city streets are dirty and
Patrick O'Neil
Jun 14, 2013 Patrick O'Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so if you want to read the good shit always go to the source. For Nordic Crime's first big heavy hitters? At least for my generation: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. I picked up The Laughing Policeman #4 in the Martin Beck series, which I could've sworn I'd read before – but apparently that was eons ago as nothing was familiar (I think I've even seen the movie, but still drew a blank). Awesome, man. Even being a bit dated: protests against the Vietnam War etc. the story still stood up. Well writ ...more
Oct 26, 2008 Sun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookaweek2008
This is a breath of fresh air to one used to reading English and American crime fiction. Part of the Martin Beck series, it details the case of a mass murder on a bus in Stockholm.

It's written in a clean and simple style by Swedish journalists Sjowall and Wahloo, who incidentally were also husband and wife. It's damn good writing, dominated by the quirky consistency of the characters and the gloom of Swedish weather.

I can't recommend this enough for its straightforward storyline, the neat poli
Ben Thurley
May 25, 2014 Ben Thurley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another cracker of a story by the godparents of Swedish crime, Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö. The Laughing Policeman begins with a pointed account of police action to subdue a protest against the Vietnam War and then very quickly moves to the crime at the heart of the novel –a vividly rendered mystery: a late-night bus crashes on an almost empty street. On the bus are found nine victims who have been machine-gunned by an unknown assailant, eight murdered outright and one who survives long enough ...more
I was first introduced to Martin Beck through the wonderful Swedish TV series with Peter Haber as Beck and Mikael Persbrandt as Gunvald Larsson so I was delighted to finally read one of the original books.

Written in the late 60s it is not only an intricate police procedural but a snapshot of the culture of Sweden at the time and the crisp and concise writing works well with the cold bleak atmosphere as Beck, step by step, solves the crime. I’ll be looking for more in this terrific, classic serie
Aug 29, 2009 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, literature
I am even more convinced that this is one of the best mystery series in publication. I am thrilled the new reprint introduced me to the authors. I can easily see how and why this series is a model for today's writers to follow. There is very little in the way of fireworks, but simply tight little stories told with realism and restraint. I read many fine books, but this is in a class by itself.
From BBC radio 4 - Saturday Drama:
The investigation of a mass shooting leads Beck back to an unsolved case from the past.
Rafa Sánchez
Mar 20, 2015 Rafa Sánchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crimen
No se le puede pedir más a una novela negra. Con su estilo directo, sin complicadas disquisiciones ni trucos, las novelas de esta gran escritora sueca te sumerjen en una intriga que te lleva devorar una novela tras otra. El aspecto que más me sorprende es el enfoque coral de la investigación, creo que es absolutamente novedoso dentro del género que no veamos al típico detective solitario que quiere controlar todos los interrogatorios y que dirige la acción con mano de hierro. Además, en esta ent ...more
Carey Combe
Nov 17, 2012 Carey Combe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Favourite so far
Jul 20, 2011 Kat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Laughing Policeman" is a gripping ride from start to finish. Because it starts out with a mass murder on a double-decker bus, I was instantly reminded of the horrific massacre on a Greyhound bus out west in Manitoba, Canada, in 2008. Initially, I couldn't get that awful story out of my head.

But eventually, this book took over my thoughts and I was firmly planted in Sweden where the drudgery of police work is made entertaining to readers by the laconic dialogue and the sporadic breakthroughs
Mar 26, 2011 Ellie rated it it was amazing
I bought The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjöwall because a) I liked the title and b) the bookstore didn't have the book for which I was looking. And heaven forbid I should actually leave a bookstore without spending a chunk of money.

Also, for some reason, I like a lot of Scandinavian mysteries, such as the Ake Edwardson series (Detective Erik Winter), so this seemed like a reasonable gamble.

I'm glad to say the gamble payed off, and payed big.

The laughing detective does anything but laugh. He's dys
Paul Haspel
Sep 30, 2014 Paul Haspel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stockholm, a beautiful city, is also a city of extremes -- so warm and sunny in the summer, so dark and cold in the winter -- and therefore it is an eminently suitable setting for a murder mystery. Nowadays, the Stockholm murder mysteries that are all the rage are Stieg Larsson's three Millennium novels; but forty years before Larsson, the husband-and-wife writing team of Maj Sjövall and Per Wahlöö created their own powerful series of mystery novels, centering around the phlegmatic and taciturn ...more
Mohnish Lad
Aug 21, 2011 Mohnish Lad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book came highly recommended to me by a friend. And it didnt disappoint. The beauty of this book lies in the way Maj and Per compress their writing yet gives away a lot in terms of plot and characterization. At the end of the book i came across a chapter where they have actually listed names of 30 people with their last names,age and occupation! So you ll never complain that a 250-odd pages book will never consist of detailing. The 250-odd pages is just a decoy, mind you - this novel is as ...more
Jul 23, 2015 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The name of Martin Beck was only vaguely familiar to me when – the other week – a friend recommended these books. Having now waded in, I am immensely glad she did.

If I’m honest I was expecting something more contemporary – in the Stieg Larsson or Jo Nesbo line – not something far older and much more classic. Written and set in the Sixties, with protests against the Vietnam War as a backdrop, this is a beautifully conceived and wonderfully sharp police procedural. A bus crashes on a dark Stockhol
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Maj Sjöwall is a Swedish author and translator. She is best known for the collaborative work with her partner Per Wahlöö on a series of ten novels about the exploits of Martin Beck, a police detective in Stockholm. In 1971, the fourth of these books, The Laughing Policeman (a translation of Den skrattande polisen, originally published in 1968) won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America ...more
More about Maj Sjöwall...

Other Books in the Series

Martin Beck (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Roseanna (Martin Beck, #1)
  • The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (Martin Beck, #2)
  • The Man on the Balcony (Martin Beck, #3)
  • The Fire Engine That Disappeared  (Martin Beck, #5)
  • Murder at the Savoy (Martin Beck, #6)
  • The Abominable Man (Martin Beck, #7)
  • The Locked Room (Martin Beck, #8)
  • Cop Killer (Martin Beck, #9)
  • The Terrorists (Martin Beck, #10)
  • The Martin Beck Series: Books 1-4

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“This is a foul thing that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. No firearms should exist. The fact that they are still made and that all sorts of people have them lying about in drawers or carry them around in the street just shows that the whole system is perverted and crazy. Some bastard makes a fat profit by making and selling arms, just the way other people make a fat profit on factories that make narcotics and deadly pills. Do you get it?” 0 likes
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