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(Martin Beck Police Mystery #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  15,907 ratings  ·  1,182 reviews
With a New Introduction by Henning Mankell. The masterful first novel in the Martin Beck series of mysteries by the internationally renowned crime writing duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö ("the best writers of police procedurals in the world"), finds Beck hunting for the murderer of a lonely traveler.
On a July afternoon, a young woman's body is dredged from Sweden's beautifu
Paperback, Reprint edition, 224 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1965)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  15,907 ratings  ·  1,182 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nordic-noir
"He looked tired and his sunburned skin seemed yellowish in the gray light. His face was lean with a broad forehead and a strong jaw. His mouth, under his short, straight nose, was thin and wide with two deep lines near the corners. When he smiled, you could see his healthy, white teeth. His dark hair was combed straight back from the even hairline and had not yet begun to gray. The look in his soft blue eyes was clear and calm. He was thin but not especially tall and somewhat round-shouldered. ...more
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First in the series and the best .....
Sep 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
So first off, this has nothing to do with that Toto song. Just thought I’d get that out of the way right off the bat.

This was published in 1965 and was the first in a series of ten books about Swedish police investigator Martin Beck. When the body of a woman who was raped and murdered is pulled out of a Swedish canal, Beck is called in to investigate, and he’ll spend months pulling together the facts he’ll need to solve it.

This has an interesting introduction by the Swedish crime writer Henning
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery fans
I liked it a lot. Very Scandinavian. I say this because (like other Scandinavian books) they treat crime as something done by insane people who are to be pitied, not loathed or hated. They also are very methodical and relentless in their pursuit of criminals. This took place in the sixties, and that was very interesting. Beatles, no cell phones, telegraphs, etc. Since the villain is a rapist and murderer, some things get disgusting at times. Not description-wise, the Scandinavians are very good ...more
When I finished Roseanna again last night I thought I should write a review talking about how rare it is for me to reread a book, and how Sjöwall & Wahloo have conjured something exceptional from me as a reader. When I started thinking about how rare it is for me to reread, however, I realized what a load of crap that is.

I am a rereader. I reread quite often, actually. Most of the books I reread, admittedly, are due to the classes I teach. I've read Hamlet and The Tempest and One Day in the Lif
May 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This is sort of like a police procedural version of John La Carre's Smiley novels. They aren't jargon littered like Le Carre's novels but the hero, Martin Beck, is sort of a non-traditional hero of the same ilk of George Smiley. Beck is a depressed middle-aged man, his only real quirk is that he likes building model boats, he doesn't like being around groups of people, coffee makes him feel sick, he's resigned to having to deal with his family who he doesn't seem to have enough energy to really ...more
Feb 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The clarity of the writing and translation held me in thrall. In Henning Mankell's introduction to the reprint out in late 2008, he mentions that this husband and wife team inspired the new breed of police procedurals by the greats we read now. The view of the cop as a flawed individual with physical and personal issues was a new concept when they began. The slow, solid build-up of tension in Roseanna was so subtle that the denoument, when it came, had me actually gasping for breath. A resoundin ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I found out about this book through a recommendation for something similar the Henning Mankell, and it is revealing that Mankell is the one who writes the foreword of this true classic of police procedural novels.
Indeed, Kurt Wallander and Martin Beck seem cut from the same cloth, 40 years apart: middle aged, slightly depressive, with broken marriages, stubborn and unrelenting in the pursuit of justice. I'm not talking about any plagiarizing, each series stands on its own merits and has distinct
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: s, w, 2020

Roseanna is the first book in the hugely acclaimed Martin Beck series: the novels that shaped the future of Scandinavian crime fiction and influenced writers from Stieg Larrson to Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell to Lars Kepplar.

On a July afternoon, the body of a young woman is dredged from a lake in southern Sweden. Raped and murdered, she is naked, unmarked and carries no sign of her identity. As Detective Inspector Martin Beck slowly begins to make the connections that will bring
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 s
Oct 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The body of a young woman is found at the locks of Borenshult. The local police call in Martin Beck and his team from Stockholm to help identify her and catch her killer. Thorough and meticulous investigations follow.

There's a strong sense of patience and time in Roseanna, as in Sjowall & Wahloo's The Laughing Policeman. I like the reality of long stretches of time, the deliberate treatment of procedural details that, instead of being tedious, give a heightened sense of reality and show the pai
The Martin Beck series is supposed to amazing, I was very excited to finally find the first book so I could find out why. So far, so ordinary.

I can understand how it might have been revolutionary in Swedish crime circles, being the first of its kind to move away from the classic British mystery style of Agatha Christie but for me reading it in 2012 it doesn't have that shock to the senses factor it might have had in 1965.

This mixture of Ed McBain's police procedural style and Georges Simenon's p
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this is a hell of a way to introduce a character. It was only when I came to enter the fact I was reading ‘Roseanna’ onto this website that I realised it is the inaugural book of the Martin Beck series (as you may guess, I’m more of a ‘pick up and read’ type of guy, than a ‘research deeply beforehand’ type of guy’). There was the legend in front of me: ‘Martin Beck, 1’. And the interesting thing is that by the time I did add it to this website, I was already sixty pages through and hadn’t ...more
Rachel Hall
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The ten novels written by husband and wife team Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö during the period of 1965-75 are now considered seminal and seen as a precursor for much of the police procedural genre that followed. Widely recognised as a groundbreaking series, the novels which feature Martin Beck of the Swedish Homicide Bureau have been credited with influencing the thought processes of the generations to come and with an introduction by Henning Mankell there could be no finer testimony. The introduc ...more
Book Review

 photo majandper_zps98e4c012.jpg
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

With an introduction by Henning Mankell (he of the famous Kurt Wallander series) and writes:

"I have a strong and indisputable memory that back then I thought of the novel as straightforward and clear, a convincing story presented in an equally convincing form. [...] Today as I reread the novel I see that my first impression still holds true. The book has hardly aged at all."

Roseanna is remarkable, especially where it concerns Henning's last remark. It could h
Diane Barnes
"A murderer is just a regular human being, only more unfortunate and maladjusted".

Well, that's a scary thought. Police procedurals are not my usual reading, but this was a book club assignment, and I'm a conscientious member, so I gave it a chance. It was excellent, and fortunately I had the afternoon free, because it was hard to put down.
The dead body of a young woman is found by a dredging machine, and the police finally decide she was killed on a Swedish cruise boat carrying 85 passengers. Nu
Oct 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-audible
The novel never felt dated even though published in 1965. It is a police procedural that surprisingly felt very current with its sober, less than perfect police detective similar to (and maybe a forerunner of) the many investigators in contemporary whodunits.

Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The the ten book series (set in Sweden) taken as a whole is an exciting, moving, real-life exploration of the lives of a team of cops and their ciminal investigations. Sjowall and Wahloo, a husband-and-wife writing team (Sjowall died in 1975) use crime fiction as a way of talking about the inherent wickedness of the capitalist system, but politics isn't what the books are about: they're about crime, and justice, and heartbreak, and strength, and all the other things we read crime fiction for. If ...more
Thomas Strömquist
I thought that I should do some housekeeping and write the missing reviews for books I've already rated. This one I've read multiple times, I gave it all the stars and I compare it to every police procedural I ever read. There are a lot of good reasons for that, Sjöwall/Wahlöö's first 'Martin Beck' (i.e. "Roman om ett brott" = "Novel about a crime" in original (Swedish) editions) is a great 60's Swedish crime mystery. At times slow moving and with a tinge of melancholy feeling (like all the 10 b ...more
Dec 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
I spotted this set of books on the crime fiction shelves in the library and I had to look more closely. I was intrigued by the numbering, by the twin Swedish names, and I was sure that a couple of the titles rang bells.

I picked up this, the first book, and I discovered that a series of ten books exactly had been planned from the start, by a husband and wife team. That there had been awards,and film adaptations. That back in the early sixties these books changed the genre. They were the first rea
Blaine DeSantis
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
The first book in the Martin Beck series is a winner! I understand why the author was so popular and the shame is that there are only about 10 books in this series. This is the 2nd of her books that I have read and I intend to read all of them. Her writing style is really good. What do I mean? First of all ther is a ton of dialogue, much of it in the form of interrogation. Plus as the action on the case bogs down her chapters become longer and much slower reads - it is as if she is putting the r ...more
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't love this one. Partly I think it's because it came out in 1965 so it read more like a police procedural than a mystery. I read it for my #whodunitbymail group in Litsy and I am excited to read what other people picked. My problem was that we didn't know the victim at all--and even when we got to know her through her friends, she wasn't terribly likable (not a good reason for her to die of course)! The lead detective, Martin Beck wasn't really endearing either so I had trouble caring about ...more
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
roseanna is a melancholy novel: i felt sad for the victim, and sad for the detectives (especially martin beck - the titular detective of the series) investigating her death. as they sought to discover the mystery behind her death and found out more about her, i felt worse and worse. i think the novel tries to underscore the fact that people are complex, that they act and react as the result of their experience and predispositions. roseanna reminds us that pain comes to all, and it isn't really a ...more
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Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A detailed and down to earth police procedural. Set in Sweden in the 1960's, a routine dredging uncovers a dead body in a lake. Martin Beck and his colleagues undertake a long and frustrating investigation. Through dedication, patience and attention to detail they seek to catch the killer.

Solving the crime takes determination. There are many times in the investigation where the work is not glamourous. Whittling down long lists of suspects. Relying on witness reports long after the murder took pl
Elizabeth (Alaska)
As this was my first read by this author/series, I did not know what to expect. At first, the writing seemed simple and stilted, but I chalked that up to both the genre (do we really expect fine prose with crime/mystery?) and to the fact that it is translated. It wasn't too long before I adjusted to the cadence and it seemed to be perfect for what it portrays.

This seems more of a police procedural to me, though I'm far from any expert on the sub-divisions in this genre. Included are transcripts
Nancy Oakes
First in a series featuring Martin beck, set in Sweden. As the story opens, the body of a young girl is found in a canal. Martin Beck is in charge of the investigation into her death, but to get anywhere they first have to figure out who she was. It takes awhile, but once they've identified her, the real fun begins: finding out who might have wanted her dead and why.

What a great series opener! The characters are very human and realistic, the prose is not overdone. There were a couple of places o
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-mystery
Quite outstanding, and I can see how (written in 1965) this was a game-changer for the genre.

BTW -- let me state here that these five-stars are to be measured, as I suppose with my other ratings, only in the context of the genre in which the book was written -- not as compared, say, to Pynchon or Virgil.
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
It was ok. A solid ok. Didn't love it but didn't hate it either. ...more
Amy Cousins
Someone (can't remember who! please poke me if it was you!) recommended the Martin Beck series to me and I'm so glad they did. It's fascinating to immerse yourself in another era (1960s Sweden) and this police procedural/mystery sucked me in with a world that existed pre-indoor smoking bans, cell phones, and the internet. This is not a glamorous world. The best quality a police officer can possess is patience, and grinding it out while you have the flu is more valuable than being a great shot. ( ...more
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Maj Sjöwall was a Swedish author and translator. She was 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 Ameri ...more

Other books in the series

Martin Beck Police Mystery (10 books)
  • The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (Martin Beck, #2)
  • The Man on the Balcony (Martin Beck, #3)
  • The Laughing Policeman (Martin Beck, #4)
  • 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)

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