Brad's Reviews > Roseanna

Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall
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's review
Jul 16, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: audio-book, doing-the-dishes, swedish-lit, mystery
Read from July 09 to 16, 2011 , read count: 1

The Swedish-noir (Swedish-svart?) family tree runs just so: Martin Beck (grandfather) → Kurt Wallander (father) → Mikael Blomkvist (son).

Now I admit that my exposure to this family is limited by my North Americanism, by the translations that filter their way across the Atlantic, by the culture(s) that make(s) these works popular, but even if there are branches and roots of the tree that I can't see, the relationship between these stories is undeniable.

So it feels to me like Martin Beck -- more specifically the first novel starring Martin Beck, RoseAnna -- is the progenitor of the big protagonists that came after.

Martin Beck, you see, is the sixties' Kurt Wallander. He is consumed by his job, he is deep in a failing marriage, he is constantly depressed, almost always in ill health, yet there is something admirable in his doggedness. And in the version of RoseAnna that I listened to, Henning Mankell admits his debt to Maj Sjowall and Per Wahlöö, acknowledging that the writing team's split from classic "English" mystery, their committment to the banality of police work, their need for investigatory truth, deeply influenced his own work.

Making that first connection is easy, the next much less so.

On the surface, Mikael Blomqvist seems a bit harder to link to his father and grandfather. He is flamboyant (for a Swede), where they are moderate and restrained. He is an active lefty, while they are decidely more conservative. He is a hopeful investigative reporter, while they are jaded old school cops. He shares the spotlight with Lisbeth Salander, while they are clearly the protagonists of their tales.

But there is a clear genetic link running from RoseAnna through to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's nest, and it can be found in the original Swedish title to Steig Larsson's Blomqvist debut: Män som hatar kvinno (Men Who Hate Women).

It's not the protagonists who hate women (at least not enough to destroy them), but the criminals they deal with. It is a preoccupation for all the authors, and it makes me wonder, when one reads these books, what the attitude towards women really is in Sweden. Can it be as bad as these books suggest?

Whatever the case, these books are compelling reads for anyone interested in the mystery genre. Don't be fooled, though, by those who would have you believe that Steig Larsson is some sort of genre creating genius who gave rise to Swedish crime fiction out a vaccuum. He's the most recent, and most popular, of a healthy and strong family tree. And this book, RoseAnna is one of the healthiest and most gripping of its roots.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Lori (new)

Lori It seems the Swedes have a monopoly on modern mysteries. And I don't usually read mysteries, but these go beyond my stereotypical and admittedly preconceived notions of what that genre entails. I've been curious about Mankell - for years - the TV series with Branaugh was excellent.

message 2: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Baughman The Scandanavians do seem to like crime novels. Sjowall, Mankell, Indriasson...I 'm sure there are many otners i don't know about.

message 3: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I've had my eye on the Mankell books for awhile now. Great review.

Brad Thanks, Daniel. I really enjoy the Wallander books. They are a great way to unwind after I read something heavy.

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