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The Fire Engine That Disappeared (Martin Beck Police Mystery #5)

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  2,539 Ratings  ·  153 Reviews
Gunvald Larsson sits carefully observing the dingy Stockholm apartment of a man under police surveillance. He looks at his watch: nine minutes past eleven in the evening. He yawns, slapping his arms to keep warm. At the same moment the house explodes, killing at least three people. Chief Inspector Martin Beck and his men don't suspect arson or murder until they discover a ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published 1969)
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Community Reviews

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I can't remember what I've said previously about the Martin Beck books (beyond my general positivity), so I apologize if you find me repeating myself (I am too lazy to go back and read all my previous reviews). I think it is also important to note that my star rating here is contrasted with the other books I've read in the series. The rating doesn't reflect my feelings about The Fire Engine that Disappeared compared to all books -- only other Martin Beck books.

That business complete, I have to s
What a fabulous title this one has, conjuring images of a ghostlike fire engine speeding in the dark, its sirens blazing, the blue and red flashing lights reflected off of the wet tarmac suddenly no longer illuminating the night. A huge mystery is on our hands this time Mr Beck.

This is part five of the ten book sequence of The Story of a Crime and it is as fascinating and intriguing as ever. Not so much for the mystery at the heart of this one but the police procedural nature of it all, the grow
Thomas Strömquist
Another one of the top books of the series (yes, it is crowded at that particular top!). This one continues to develop the characters and the mystery is a great one. Just the right amount of the happenings are due to random chance to give that unique feeling of reality.
Nancy Oakes
Mar 01, 2011 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Arriving at the 5th installment out of the 10-book series to feature Martin Beck, the action begins on a freezing night police as Detective Gunvald Larsson goes to check on Officer Zachrisson, who is maintaining a surveillance on an apartment house. Offering a bit of a respite to the near-frozen officer, Larsson takes over for a bit, and while he's struggling to stay warm, things unexpectedly heat up when the house explodes. While in a bit of a state of shock, Larsson eventually rescues several ...more
Dec 18, 2015 F.R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The man lying dead on the tidily made bed had taken off his jacket and tie and hung them over the chair by the door.”

I love that opening line. It has a kind of beautiful, banal poetry to it, and it’s the perfect beginning for ‘The Fire Engine That Disappeared’ – a book where violent crime and complicated mystery are forever subsumed by the commonplace as the investigating officers try to solve a baffling crime whilst getting on with their lives.

Just look at the events of the first three chapt
Apr 02, 2013 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
She looked appraisingly at him and thought that her suntan must look fine against her white dress. This was a real man, she could see that at once. Big and strong and blunt. Perhaps a little brutal too; nice.
- Who are you? she said, with interest.
- Police. My name is Larsson.

Nominally the series is about Martin Beck, but with every new book it becomes evident that the focus is on teamwork and guesswork, not on the brilliant Sherlock Holmes revelations of some brainiac detective. Coincidences a
Aug 11, 2016 Brenda rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, policial, series
I like the premisse in this book and how Larsson helped other people and he was draw to resolve the crime. Like the plot said there is an explosion and a fire in the building. I believe this book draw a line who is friend with it and how much they despise each other.

The crime and the following suspects and the drama as all was very confusing. There was left a lot of no explanation and why the police had the eyes in Malm. Beck appears vebry briefly and as we see in future he gets more and more fa
Nov 24, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Carey
From BBC radio 4 - Saturday Drama:
The apartment of a suspect being staked out by Gunvald Larsson explodes, killing three people. Arson and murder isn't at first suspected - much to Larsson's fury - but when it becomes clear that the fire was started on purpose, the case hinges on the needle-in-a-haystack chance of finding a man who fits an impossibly vague description who was somewhere in the area around the time of the fire.

A man commits suicide in a Stockholm apartment. He leaves behind a cryptic note with just two words: "Martin Beck."

Later, on the night of that same day another apartment building in Stockholm explodes in flames while the police are watching the building, because of a low-level criminal who lives there. Eleven people live in the building and had it not been for the policeman who was watching at the moment of the explosion, Gunvald Larsson, they would likely all have died. Through his heroic effor
tom bomp
Feb 26, 2015 tom bomp rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, fiction
The crime itself isn't particularly mysterious and the ending sort of whiffs out a bit. But it keeps your interest enough and as others have said it's mainly about the characters, which are well written and believable.

The book is full of a sort of understated and sometimes grim humour which makes it pretty enjoyable to read. The characters feel very real and a lot is made of their daily routine, their home life, what they like to eat and drink, their frustrations with police work... it gives it
Feb 06, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Halfway through this wonderful series; the very heart of Scandinavian detective fiction; the pantry of all that we now enjoy, as we banquet upon in the modern crime genre. Most contemporary novelists acknowledge the legacy they owe to Sjowall & Wahloo.
A police proceedural was never demonstrated better than in this inconsequential mystery around whether a fire was arson or murder.
Setting aside the date of the original writing this is a gripping tale of hard police work, excellent co-operation

So...there isn't just one fire engine that disappears, but two. The fifth book in the Martin Beck series byMaj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö finds a great deal going on in Stockholm. It all begins with the suicide of a man whose only farewell note consists of two words: Martin Beck scribbled on a notepad by his bed. Beck has never heard of the man and, as there is no doubt about the circumstances of his death, he promptly forgets about him. Not long after his colleague, Gunvald Larsson is headed home for
I'm always curious as to how other readers' impressions of a book align with or differ from my own. When I reached the end of The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, I did a quick scan of review sites and found that other readers had expressed disappointment in it, opining that it didn't measure up to the rest of the Martin Beck series, particularly the book that immediately preceded it, The Laughing Policeman . Well, I must confess that I haven't yet acquired a copy o ...more
Maria João Fernandes
"No police brutality, please."

"The Fire Engine That Disappeared" é o título do quinto livro da série do inspector Martin Beck. Tal como os que lhe antecederam, também este se revelou sublime.

Como em todos os livros desta série sueca, também neste o acaso desempenha um papel de destaque. Ernst Sigurd Karlsson suicida-se e deixa um nota com apenas um nome: Martin Beck. Sendo o caso arquivado como resolvido, pois na Suécia o suicídio não é crime, Beck vê-se envolvido numa nova investigação.

É uma si
Aug 18, 2013 Andrewh rated it liked it
This is one of the less involving Martin Beck novels (and Beck himself barely features). The title is a red herring and it is really about finding out how/why a house explosion happened, resulting in the deaths of some minor criminals. Thereafter there is a long police-procedural, which gathers pace until it reaches a dramatic ending. There is some stupendously sexist writing earlier on - on several occasions we learn very intimate and unnecessary information about female characters' bodies, and ...more
A man commits suicide by gunshot on the same evening as a suspect under police surveillance dies when the apartment building in which he lives explodes in flames. Detective Gunvald Larsson saves several people from the burning building, but the suspect was already dead. As in the prior book, the Stockholm police seem baffled, and cannot locate a critical person of interest until two small boys find him in Malmo. A local policemen there goes to Denmark, and interrogates a young woman, who helps t ...more
Nov 06, 2008 Sun rated it liked it
Shelves: bookaweek2008
Although a solid police procedural, does not have the same impact as the previous books in the Martin Beck series. More from the point of view of Detective Gunvald Larsson, who is not as well liked by the other series regulars but who seems more personable. The POV shifts between the characters and there is no interaction with the perpetrators which makes it less engaging. There is however a very touching moment between Beck and his daughter, which to me is the highlight of the book. The swift a ...more
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö are not only the grandparents of the Scandinavian crime novel, but there 10-volume series of novels (known in English, somewhat misleadingly as the “Martin Beck” series) pretty much (with some influence from Ed McBains 87th Precinct series) defined the shape of contemporary police procedurals.

What the series basically does is to combine social realism with the mystery novel – it takes an unflinching look at Swedish society from the early sixties to the early seventies,
Ben Loory
Jan 24, 2011 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this one was almost cubist. very strange. no forward motion, no true main character... basically all the different cops separately ruminate about the same crime (and a missing toy) and then eventually it all somehow comes together... almost had the air of a horror novel... very moody, dark fantasy about a mysterious house... this series is continually surprising...
May 30, 2013 Pat rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction, ebooks
Possibly my least favourite so far in the Martin Beck series, but it still had its moments. As usual, the action moves along with little fanfare & the slow, painstaking efforts to come up with a clue are presented in detail. Unusually, Martin Beck played a peripheral part in this novel, but that allowed us to spend more time with the other characters.
Dec 14, 2010 Jake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
"The Fire Engine That Disappeared" is the 5th novel in the Martin Beck series. It follows "The Laughing Policeman", which many people regard as the authors' best book. In that one, several people are murdered by machine gun on a bus at the edge of Stockholm. That's a fairly marked increase in violence from the first three novels in the series, which dealt with a single woman being murdered, a journalist who disappeared, and a child rapist and murderer, respectively. Here, Sjowall and Wahloo cont ...more
Dale Pobega
Oct 02, 2012 Dale Pobega rated it it was amazing
I'm not a great fan of "crime" but this novel by Sjowall and Wahloo was a knock out - and a revelation; I am beginning to see why my wife is such a fanatical follower of the genre. With a Kindle overflowing with writers who all seem to sport a "-sson" or "-dotir" on the end of their names, I wondered what all this praise for Scandinavian authors was about! Reading my first Sjowall and Wahloo I am beginning to understand.

I loved the band of detectives in The Fire Engine that Disappeared. Beck, La
This is the 5th in the 10 book series of police procedurals, primarily featuring Det. Martin Beck, but as the series develops, featuring more of the other police detectives as well. I find these books interesting and satisfying: First, the mystery and plotting in each book are good, and the books are written in tight, use every page to its fullest (including the last one...), fashion. The characters are not warm, fuzzy types - these are police officers with edges, flaws, and dislikes, often of e ...more
It is not difficult to say what I like so much about this series. The personalities are drawn with such sensitivity and skill that they are as alive with human motivation as anyone we might encounter. More alive, in fact, because they are so exquisitely observed by this poet and journalist author team. The brevity of the sentences and the complexity of the action make for very powerful fiction. What I love most about this particular book, but I could have said (and perhaps I did say) the same ab ...more
May 15, 2008 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Like their celebrated novel The Laughing Policeman which directly precedes this one in Sjowall and Wahloo's Martin Beck series, The Fire Engine That Disappeared begins with a strange, brutal, unforgettable crime that takes many lives. As Martin Beck and his colleagues on the Stockholm police force investigate, the circumstances behind this crime are discovered to be truly baffling, involving, among other things, a man who both committed suicide and was murdered. The characters are all well-drawn ...more
Jun 10, 2016 Gav451 rated it it was amazing
I love the way these books are written. I love the way they slowly build and while really clever all of the detectives in the books use graft and work to get where they need to be.

The cynical and world weary voice at the centre of the book is brilliant as well. As I work through the whole set, and there are only 10 in all, I wonder what I will do once I have read all of them. Its going to be like being lost. I have deliberately taken them really really slowly so savour them and it is worth doing
Mar 16, 2014 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
This, in my opinion, has the best and most intricately constructed plot of the series (so far) - and has the richest characterization and wit. A winner.
Dec 27, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Henning Mankell
Shelves: mystery
Finally, a book that makes me want to sit still and read straight on through! Though the series is part of the "Martin Beck Police Mystery" series (set in Sweden in the 60's?) the driving force in this episode is the ill-tempered oversized and heroic detective Gustav Larsson. After saving a number of people from a burning building he is staking out, Larsson - having suffered a concussion - is told to stay home and rest. Larsson refuses to see the fires as anything but arson, however, and continu ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Jul 02, 2016 Lukasz Pruski rated it liked it
"Now we've three dead men, one murdered, one both murdered and committed suicide and one who only committed suicide. How do you explain this suicidal psychosis?"

It must be a very difficult task for an author to follow a masterpiece in a series of novels. In the Martin Beck series of police procedurals by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö The Fire Engine That Disappeared (1969) follows the extraordinary The Laughing Policeman and - quite naturally - pales in comparison, even if it is quite a good book
Allan MacDonell
Jun 16, 2014 Allan MacDonell rated it it was amazing
If the marriage of husband and wife co-authors Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö was drooping along the same trajectory of disgruntlement tracked by Martin Beck and his torpid colleagues in The Fire Engine That Disappeared, it’s a wonder the couple stuck it out to finish off their ten-book Story of Crime collaboration. In this, the fifth in the peerless Martin Beck series, Stockholm’s homicide dicks are stolid and unimaginative in their pursuit of a scumbag arsonist who’s burned up the resident degener ...more
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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 Police Mystery (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 Laughing Policeman (Martin Beck, #4)
  • 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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