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Murder on the Thirty-First Floor

(Inspector Jensen #1)

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  513 ratings  ·  81 reviews
A chilling dystopian classic crime story from the godfather of Scandinavian crime fiction

In an unnamed country, in an unnamed year sometime in the future, Chief Inspector Jensen of the Sixteenth Division is called in after the publishers controlling the entire country's newspapers and magazines receive a threat to blow up their building, in retaliation for a murder they ar
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 15th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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3.42  · 
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 ·  513 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Review

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of consciousness. The mode of produc
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jensen is a police Inspector in the capital city of plutocratic corporatist state somewhere in the near future investigating a bomb threat against a major magazine and newspaper publisher. As his investigation develops it seems to become more perfunctory, slightly more absurd and all the while more disturbing. In part this is a result of Wahlöö’s fastidious writing; the book is peppered with detailed lists – of what Jensen eats, of the notes he takes, of the contents of his desk, of the corridor ...more
Nov 06, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Radovan Karadžić
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: I guess I'm going through an umlaut phase
A phlegmatic, digestively-impaired detective in an anti-intellectual socialist dystopia has seven days to figure out who sent a bomb threat to a large magazine publishing company with lots of chromium furniture. Society has been so dumbed-down that although magazines "only dealt with princesses and how to make gingersnaps," they are above the readers' heads. I think the author is in favor of women's pubic hair, but I couldn't tell if the badger that frightened the children was supposed to be all ...more
Elisabeth Haljas
Incredible to think how short time span the whole book is happening. One week. Well, it is so engaging it took me only a couple of days to read. The dry humour and ridiculous characters one might meet during an ongoing investigation is incredibly entertaining. The book sucks you into it and when you get to the last two pages you are so lost as to what the hell just happened, you have to read it all over again. And then the after-an-incredible-book-depression hits. Unless you got another great bo ...more
This is the second of Wahloo's futuristic novels I've read. I prefer his novels set in unnamed Latin American countries (for a brilliant and astonishing novel of his, read A Necessary Action set in a village in Franco's Spain in the 1950's).
Jensen is completely colorless except for stomach pain, never explained (hernia? ulcer?). The novel has a strong narrative pull but is ultimately dissatisfying and even distasteful --to this reader at least. However, some aspects of the society seemed prescie
May 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is a police novel set in a near-future world where the police/welfare state is fully established.

A powerful combine, called The Concern, has bought up all the magazines and newspapers in this unnamed northern country. The people are fed a constant diet of bland, meaningless nonsense. Anything that could cause people to be concerned or upset is removed. Whether it is a children's comic book or a women's magazine, there are lots of bright colors everywhere. Sometimes, the same pictures of chi
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel comes before THE STEEL SPRING which I reviewed recently. Again it is a dystopian novel. In the unnamed country crime rates are falling and so are birth rates, but the government has recently made it illegal to become inebriated not only in public but also at home. Every night the jails are filled with drunks, and the government makes a small fortune by fining the inebriates.

Publishing of all sorts has become a monopoly of the group that owns The Skyscraper, the 31 storey building that
Manuel Antão
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Marxist SF: "The Murder on the 31st Floor” by Per Wahlöö

Published for the first time in 1964 (2011 edition read).

NB: First read in German a long time ago. This is my first reading in English.

“The Murder on the 31st Floor” starts as a spiritual murder of cultural criticism, the freedom of expression and then in the physical liquidation of the last social critics.

“The Murder on the 31st Floor” is a novel in several ways that breaks with Wahlöös earlier novels, which mostly take place in foreign di
Ken Fredette
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought that this book was relevant to today with a few exceptions. There would be no typewriters and there would be i-phones everywhere today. Inspector Jensen was aware that things were not normal at the building and wasn't fooled by the publishers finding a party to the letter themselves. He struggled with the problem for the remaining time allotted him to find the perpetrator. Per Wahlöö was a very intelligent chap to write this story back in 1964. The ending was worth reading the story.
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary well written! Really feels that you are living in a brave new world, but grey, cold, with people under a rose-like ideological dictatorship. I was rather surprised by the development of the story and not very sure that I wanted to continue reading it. There was no crime committed, no blood, no forensics, no sex motivations, and a detective likewise grey and uncommunicative as the other characters, in spite of that, I read it in no time. Really extraordinary.
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, own-books
Some hints of Martin Beck to come, but this is rather different: a disturbing dystopia (with a very odd detective), a vision of either a future or a parallel universe in which the author is making some political points from his Marxist perspective, but the actual functioning of the society seems more a combination of neoliberalism and old-fashioned authoritarianism (the sinister publishing company has bought up all the opposition and only a monopoly is now possible, which is what tends to happen ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not literary fiction per se, the language is merely functional. Having said that, the structure of the story works really well. The novel, which I had the local librarian dig out from storage, provides timely criticism of a homogenized media and the understanding that democracy can only function on the basis of total consensus, and the elimination of radical voices. Speaking of which, the contemporary example of a dissenting voice is Assange (would he be seen as dissenting in Russia? wil ...more
May 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t enjoy this despite the Martin Beck series being some of my favourite stories. It’s trying to suggest a future society controlled by a ubiquitous publishing company with a crime at the centre that exposes something about the society. But the cop is a cypher who sits around and appears to guess the solution.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone want to take these pliers I got here and pull really fucking hard on my Wisdom Tooth? I'll pay you.

Anyway, whatever; I'm so delirious I'll probably have forgotten what even happened by tomorrow.

I tried to read something decent but... well... PAIN.
This is the fifth such infection and I realise I've not even talked about the book.

Very meh. There we are.

Nov 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adapted into the hallucinatory black comedy "Kamikaze 1989" starring Rainer Werner Fassbender, the original novel is bone dry but creepy all the same. Not quite science fiction, not quite dystopian social commentary, not quite straight up police procedural, but at the nexus of all three.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-thriller
This is a strange one, it's cold and clinical language works and it feels completely modern despite being written over 50 years ago. The futuristic setting even works too, although technology is obviously dated, it's almost steampunk seen from todays DNA, touchscreen, mobile phone culture.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nordic-mysteries
I really enjoyed this surreal book. I can't wait to read the next book in the series. It's made me think a lot about the media I consume, especially magazines and newspapers.
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great dystopian tale. Better than Beck.
Linda Campbell
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
weird, believable...especially now in Trump's ignorant, lie-loving America
Lukasz Pruski
Per Wahlöö is one half of the Swedish mystery writing duo Sjöwall and Wahlöö, who - between 1965 and 1975 - wrote a great series of crime novels featuring inspector Martin Beck and detectives Lennart Kollberg, Gunvald Larsson, Einar Ronn, etc. The series contains some of the best police procedurals I have read in my life; I find "The Laughing Policeman" and "Roseanna" the most outstanding. In addition to highly realistic and captivating plots, the books present quite a critical view of the Swedi ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the Martin Beck series of police procedurals which Wahloo wrote with his partner, I was fearful of being disappointed by this solo effort. I thus psychologically prepared myself, repeating over and over, "This is not a Martin Beck book", determined to read this in it's own right.

This wasn't as good as the Martin Beck books. Hey, there's just no getting away from it.

That said, the comparison is perhaps a little unfair. This does share similarities, certainly. T
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up completely ignorant of Per Wahloo. It was a newish edition and based on the back summary of a future where all the media is controlled by one person I actually thought it was recently written and going to comment on modern information.

It's a rather grey, dreary writing style but it helps emphasize the offensively neutral state of affairs and the city itself. Also one of the few books where we don't really get much of the explanation into the mechanics of the world that wasn't exa
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Here is a world which has lost its spirit. The detective always solves his case, seemingly by exhaustively following a methodical approach in which no extraneous evidence, speech, emotion or unnecessary discussion with other officers is allowed. All is based on the facts. No wonder he suffers from a digestive disorder which removes any joy in life. He can't eat anything worthwhile and even the rubbish he does eat simply causes more discomfort. Meanwhile we learn more and more about this soulless
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This was not what I was expecting it to be. Almost more science fiction than mystery, this deals with some unnamed society where this is just one publishing corporation responsible for all printed media, dumbing everything down for the masses. Drunkenness, even in the home, is no longer allowed. Soccer, the only sport remaining, is played without an audience in a TV studio. And on the 31st Floor? The few remaining independent thinkers and critics of society. There is a reason that mysteries are ...more
Bill Lawrence
Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Compared to the Martin Beck series series written with Maj Sjöwall this is a bit disappointing. Although there are interesting social science fiction aspects, for 1964 this is remarkably prescient in its view of the controlling powers of capitalism - censorship without censoring not least among them - it struggles to come alive in the way that the Martin Beck books do. Inspector Jensen is more of a cipher and the most you understand from the book is that he has serious digestive problems. Its vi ...more
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
To be honest I was expecting a lot more from this novel. The protagonist is given only a few days to investigate a serious crime against a newspaper/magazine agency.The reasoning behind the deadline was a bit out of the blue however, and I personally think it didn't help the story. The detective was weird and had a very unusual way of tracking down the criminal. A few hours before the deadline, he still had not questioned all the suspects, neither did he have their names. So the climax was just ...more
Rog Harrison
Jun 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I had enjoyed the series of books the author co-wrote with his wife but this is the first time I have read a book he wrote on his own. It was written in 1964 and I suppose it could even have been considered science fiction as it is set in the future. It is a grim book and the author makes some interesting political points but the story concerns a policeman investigating a bomb threat. I was not sure I understood all that happened in the final pages but it was a fascinating read and I am just abo ...more
Tom Schaffner
Good, but a little bland in points.

It suffers from the problem of having an exciting start, an interesting end, but a monotonous feel for most of the time. Despite this, the way certain themes are portrayed so consistently throughout the book is nice and as an all round decent detective novel. The plot is cleverly written and the mystery has to be solved with high attention to detail, adding to the intrigue.
Paul Baldowski
Strangely compelling. A stark writing style that nevertheless kept me enthralled and engaged right down to the last page. Reminded me a little of the likes of Graham Greene or Franz Kafka - the grey and wretched selling and society, and the police officer plagued by bad digestion and ill patience. Recommended.
"Copyright 1964, Translation Copyright 2012" ought to have been my first clue: this clunker is product from the past dredged up to ride the wave of successful Scandinavian detective fiction. It's a pulpy dystopian short story stretched out to a short novel by having a cardboard cutout of a detective trundle around listening to expository speeches.

It was OK.
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Per Fredrik Wahlöö (5 August 1926 - 22 June 1975) was a Swedish author. He is perhaps best known for the collaborative work with his partner Maj Sjöwall on a series of ten novels about the exploits of Martin Beck, a police detective in Stockholm, published between 1965 and 1975. In 1971, The Laughing Policeman (a translation of Den skrattande polisen, originally published in 1968) won an Edgar Awa ...more

Other books in the series

Inspector Jensen (2 books)
  • The Steel Spring
“-- Но вы испытывали ненависть к своей новой службе? Концерну? Его шефам?
-- Ничуть. <...> Ибо со своей точки зрения они действовали в строгом соответствии с логикой: чего ради они стали бы отказываться от такого доступного триумфа? Представьте себе, что генерал Миаха во время сражения за Мадрид позвонил генералу Франко и спросил у него: "Не хотите ли по дешевке откупить у меня мою авиацию? Уж больно много она жрет бензина".”
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