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

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  3,171 Ratings  ·  188 Reviews
The cunning incendiary device that blew the roof off a Stockholm apartment house one cold winter night not only interrupted the small, peaceful orgy underway inside, it nearly took the lives of the building’s eleven occupants. And if one of police commissioner Martin Beck’s colleagues hadn’t been on the scene, the explosion would have led to a major catastrophe since - for ...more
hardcover, 213 pages
Published 1971 by Pantheon (first published 1969)
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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.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Another smashing book in the Martin Beck series. In this one a crook is found dead after a house fire. A tragic accident? Of course not - there are nefarious goings on.

A locked room mystery with several twists. As ever the charm is in the simple, Spartan prose, with not a word wasted. Beck is a peripheral figure in this one, as the ensemble takes up the case with gusto.

We have the usual light touch, gentle humour and some right on social commentary. Worth a read.
Nancy Oakes
Feb 27, 2011 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
Nov 04, 2015 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
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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.

This case giving me some anticipation at first-- intro with suicide and building on fire. Not much of Martin Beck but the team as a whole was perfectly portrayed here. I love how the case indirectly related to Rönn's lil boy missing fire engine toy. Fantastic and I love Månsson-- he was so mysterious but very trustworthy.

This was okay. It moves slowly but straight forward. Crime was not that complicated or me too eager want to know where the heck is the culprit, I like how 'em all really into th
David Ärlemalm

Ungefär en gång om året blir jag sugen på stekt fläsk och rårakor. Gärna med lingonsylt. Det är alltid gott, på det där trygga välkända sättet, trots att jag inte har något minne av att det serverades under uppväxten.

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
May 22, 2013 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
tom bomp
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
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
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
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german
And again, time machine to Stockholm in 1968. Repeating myself, but I simply love these books, they are well written and The Real Thing.
Our group of cops solves another case, sure enough. And their personal stories continue.
Again, I find myself amused at the political views fashionable among the young/intellectuals - flirting with the Soviets, finding fault with the Americans. Some things don't seem to change. ;)
Judith Johnson
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! Can't wait to read the rest of the series!
M.J. Johnson
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. This is the fifth book in the Martin Beck series, which still continues to satisfy the reader without resorting to cliche or formula. I am so glad I discovered this series. A darn good read!
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
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-1000
This was my least favorite in the Martin Beck series so far. This storyline was more disjointed than usual. The mystery was all over the place and the ending did not match my expectations for this series. As a mystery/police procedural this story fell through for me. However, this story did develop a lot of the characters in the story. And, even though the series revolves around Martin Beck, he was more a peripheral character in this one. This story revolved around Gunvald Larsson, a character t ...more
Ben Thurley
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Fire Engine that Disappeared, begins delicately – with a visit by Inspector Martin Beck with his aging mother and a seemingly low-key stake-out in the freezing Stockholm night. When the unlikeable but brutally effective Gunnvald Larsson relieves a less experienced officer on watch, Sjöwall & Wahlöö quickly shift gears.
Gunvald Larsson looked at his watch. Nine minutes past eleven. Eight minutes left.

He yawned and raised his arms to start beating them round him.

At that precise moment the h
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
Nov 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ben Loory
Jan 24, 2011 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...
Mar 16, 2014 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.
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
The funniest and most character-interesting Martin Beck book yet. The authors, having written a procedural masterpiece in The Laughing Policeman, lightened the mood a little here, I think. It's still intensely procedural, but here the focus is less on the crime and the criminals and more on the team of detectives and their quiet, worldly woes.

We spend a portion of time each with Beck (whose home life has been stagnant for so long that his insomnia and avoidance of his wife are no longer even po
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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 (10 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 highway authorities clearly did not think it worth their while wasting road salt on this useless bit of roadway.” 0 likes
“There are lots of good cops around. Dumb guys who are good cops. Inflexible, limited, tough, self-satisfied types who are all good cops. It would be better if there were a few more good guys who were cops.” His” 0 likes
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