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The Laughing Policeman

(Martin Beck Police Mystery #4)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  8,333 ratings  ·  614 reviews
With its wonderfully observed lawmen (including the inimitable Martin Beck), its brilliantly rendered felons and their murky Stockholm underworld, and its deftly engineered plot, The Laughing Policeman is a classic of the police procedural and "must reading for anyone who claims to be [a student] of the best detective fiction" (Saturday Review). ...more
Paperback, 211 pages
Published December 1st 1992 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1968)
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Kostas Kyriakopoulos He got out the bullets when he creeped in slowly into Forsberg's office afew minutes before he comes. As Beck enters the office and drops the bullets …moreHe got out the bullets when he creeped in slowly into Forsberg's office afew minutes before he comes. As Beck enters the office and drops the bullets out, Melander was smoking his pipe.(less)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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One of the things I dig most about the "Martin Beck" mysteries is that they are only named "Martin Beck" mysteries out of convenience. He's the highest ranking policeman in Sjowall and Wahloo's Stockholm Homicide Division, and a couple of the early books tended to focus on him, but as the series goes on the books can be about any of the men who work with Beck.

The Laughing Policeman revolves around two of the detectives: Lennart Kollberg and Åke Stenström. In fact, the central mystery of the book
Just reread this for work, but it's reminded me that I meant to go after the others in the series and work my way through them. I really do have to, because they're brilliant, and decades ahead of their time. Sorry the US, but your classic hardboiled fiction really does pale into insignificance next to Nordic Noir. Give me Sjöwall and Wahlöö every time. ...more
Nancy Oakes
After finishing The Man on the Balcony, I decided to go back for more of Martin Beck and his colleagues, and I'm so happy I did. The Laughing Policeman is the fourth in the Martin Beck series, and so far it is my favorite from this writing duo.

While the police in Stockholm are busy at the American Embassy where a protest against the Vietnam War has turned very ugly, patrolmen Kvant and Kristiansson, the Keystone Cop-ish police officers who just so happened to have inadvertently solved the case i
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Another super book in the series about the morose, melancholy and mirthless detective Martin Beck - though it is an ensemble piece in reality as his colleagues are heavily involved as well rounded totally believable characters in their own right.

Who has machine gunned nine people on a Stockholm bus late one evening? Why is an off duty policeman one of the victims? How is this case linked to an unsolved murder mystery?

There are no witnesses save a man in a coma who expires after waking briefly an
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2012

The fourth book featuring Stockholm Police Commissioner Martin Beck is probably the best known, due to a movie adaptation with Walther Matthau in the main role. I can understand its popularity, as it is my favorite so far in this ongoing police procedural series.
It is important to accentuate the procedural nature of the story, in order to give a warning to readers who expect all crime stories to have a super smart detective who solves cases by smoking a pipe ot twirling a moustache while the aut
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Story of a Crime Book 4: The One With A Mass Murder, a Cop Killing and Beck Takes a Back Seat

Simenon aside I don't think there are any other crime writers who have managed to capture so much in so few pages, once more Sjowall & Wahloo have written fantastic piece of genre fiction whilst holding a mirror up to society, it's failings and its strengths. Yes it is from their own particular Marxist viewpoint but they are not dogmatic about it.

This case is set in the winter of 1968, Europe is prot
Thomas Strömquist
Sjöwall/Wahlöö's 4th book has never been made into a Swedish movie, but was filmed starring Wather Matthau in 1973 (The Laughing Policeman). If you happen to have caught that one, please know that, even if the story (more than the characters) survived the relocation to the States, it doesn't really hold a candle to the original. This story, starting off with the shocking mass murder of a number of people on a night bus in central Stockholm, is one of, if not the top of the series.

Note: Not all t
This book won the Edgar Award for best novel in 1971 and it is easy to see why. It is a mesmerizing tale right from the first sentence, maybe the best in this series that I have read so far.

As with the three earlier books, this one is deceptively simple in construction. It is told in laconic "this happened, then this happened" fashion, and it is hard for an amateur such as myself to deconstruct just why it is so good. But if the object of a writer is to entertain and hold the interest of the re
This was only the second of the Edgar Best Novel winners so far that I knew for certain I had read before. But, I decided it would be worthwhile to reread it, and how right I was. Martin Beck, the protagonist of this series, is the spiritual ancestor of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander. He pretty much bears out any stereotype you may have about gloomy Swedes. But he's a heck of a policeman.
One thing I don't recall noticing when I first read this book back in the 1970s was how it is set in a defi
Jan 19, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edgar_winners
This book was originally published in Sweden in 1968 as "Den Skrattande Polisen". It is the fourth of ten novels featuring Detective Martin Beck.

The novel was adapted to film in 1973, with Walter Matthau in the lead role. His character was renamed "Jake Martin," the action was relocated to San Francisco, California, and much of the novel's plot was altered.

The series consists of:

"Roseanna" (1965)
"The Man Who Went Up in Smoke" (1966)
"The Man on the Balcony" (1967)
"The Laughing Policeman" (1968) (
Convoluted murder mystery/police procedural. A mass murder takes place on a bus in Stockholm, one of the victims is a police officer. A mystery where the past has great impact on the present.

This police procedural focuses more of the officers involved in solving the murder than on the list of suspects.

A Nordic mystery which is always interesting. Not quite a smooth read due to the translation at times.
Mark Stevens
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There is no single hero. Martin Beck does the most brooding. He--mostly--puts the pieces together. Teamwork rules in The Laughing Policeman. The pieces come together through collaboration, not by lone wolves sniffing one trail.

Written in 1968, the style here is multiple points of view. The prose swoops down from extreme omniscience and scene-setting--a dry, matter-of-fact coolness to the tone--before picking up the thoughts and actions of one of the many cops in the ensemble.

The cops are warts-a
Book Review

As is sometimes true: I read books with common threads, one after the other, without fully realizing it. It was only while reading the 4th in a series by Henning Mankell that I noticed I was reading a crime novel whose title remarked on the facial expressions of joy and laughter (Mankell's The Man Who Smiled) much as this novel I'd just finished reading did (the 4th in the Martin Beck series: The Laughing policeman). Did I deliberately choose these books for their evocative titles? I
May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
What a treat I am having reading the Martin Beck series in order; with this book I'm 4 down and 6 to go.
The skill of these writers is creating a brilliant Police procedural and here with The Laughing Policeman you are treated to one of the best.
All the detectives play their part in trying to solve a mass murder as they slowly begin to understand that that horrific crime was committed to stop one of their own from solving a much older murder.
I especially like the gentle interactions between the d
Ben Loory
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
yet another totally solid, fast-moving, absolutely hypnotic entry in the martin beck series which somehow manages to completely emotionally devastate me at the end (this time, via a joke). these people are insanely good, i have no idea how they did it, these books are all but perfect, i don't in the slightest understand how they work, how they gain their power, but it is tremendous... and what's more, it seems to be cumulative... 6 books left and i'm already starting to worry about withdrawal... ...more
Probably as good as it gets as far as a police procedural drama goes.
Christmas time in Stockholm 1967, a mass murder on a bus. One of the victim includes a homicide detective. The police squad slowly works around to a connection to a previous unsolved murder of a nymphomaniac part-time prostitute.
Martin Beck is just one of the gang which is about the team working together and not on any individual. The differences between Beck's after-work life (he has none) and that of his friend and colleague
So I call my experience with this book "Catcher in the Rye" syndrome. That's the name I give to any book I read where nothing really happens for like pages and pages and pages and yet I can't put the damn thing down.

If you're a fan of literary history at all and particularly mystery fiction this is a really neat series to check out. The Martin Beck series and its authors Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo are more or less the grandparents of the whole Nordic thriller genre. The series was written in the
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Laughing Policeman, of course, is #4 in the ten-part detective Martin Beck series. As I noted earlier in the series, the Swedish author-couple Sjöwall and Wahlöö were known to use the police procedural genre as a vehicle for social commentary. I will focus on this point exclusively without revealing anything about how the crime is solved.

Previously, the authors made occasional subtle references to the failings of American culture, but starting in this book they give full expression to their
A Man Called Ove
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 Frustrating yet almost flawless as a mystery. Like my first book by the author-duo, they again started out with a no-motives, no-opportunity, no-clues whatsoever crime. While the earlier book left me dissatisfied with its solution, this one slowly, FRUSTRATINGLY slowly teased and resolved the crime to my complete satisfaction. The ending could have been slightly better but perhaps that is felt only if I compare with the rest of the book.
Possibly, the most difficult book I have read and lov
M.J. Johnson
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the first co-authored novel I've ever read. This is part of a Swedish series from the 1960s and my first outing with main character, the taciturn, rather unexceptional, Martin Beck and his police team. Exceptionally good - judging by this one, certainly deserve their reputation as fine crime thrillers/police procedurals. I mean to read the whole of this series. I did however think the translation and proofing errors in the version I read, let it down a little. What a shame I can't read S ...more
Dec 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I love how the story not really focus on Martin Beck but the whole team as well. Quite intense with mass murder sort of crime, unknown suspect and a very unlucky police guy. It goes way back relating to pass cases, quite tricky and at some point it became very exhausting. But I still like Martin Beck and his team-- the procedural, the investigation, the guessing game, hints and instinct. Too bad for Stenström but love Kollberg so much in here.

Story-telling was great, wonderful intro and stories
tortoise dreams
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was the fourth Martin Beck mystery and probably my favorite, though I have to admit I did get a little lost toward the end, which I blame more on my habit of reading before bed than the authors. The various members of the homicide squad really come into focus and Beck himself actually takes a back seat to the team as a whole. The guys are steady and deliberate in an archetypal example of the police procedural, Swedish style, with a lot of brooding and borderline depression. There's underlyi ...more
Ben Thurley
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another cracker of a story by the godparents of Swedish crime, Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö. The Laughing Policeman begins with a pointed account of police action to subdue a protest against the Vietnam War and then very quickly moves to the crime at the heart of the novel – a vividly rendered mystery: a late-night bus crashes on an almost empty street. On the bus are found nine victims who have been machine-gunned by an unknown assailant, eight murdered outright and one who survives long enough to ...more
Kathleen Fowler
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I had to go back and re-read this having recently been sampling the wares of the new generation of Swedish detective fiction writers. In the early 80’s I read and enjoyed the entire Martin Beck series of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, but “The Laughing Policeman” was my favorite.

“The Laughing Policeman” is a police procedural published in 1968 when mass murders had yet to appear on the scene in Sweden. The subject of the investigation in the book purports to be the first. The technology available
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I have been reading the Martin Beck series chronologically and this is one of the best. The original Roseanna is withoutdoubt outstanding but this comes close.

The authors of these books are the inspiration for other great Swedish crime novelists such as Henning Mankell and you can see that reflected in the latters books. The bleak cold descriptions of the Sweden of the 1970's, not the clinical society we imagine today, is racked with crime, drink and drug problems. The city streets are dirty and
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-500
This was another episode in the Martin Beck series. Unfortunately, my library does not carry the print versions of this series, so I must continue with the audioseries. I think I'd like the print version better because a lot seems to get lost in translation with the audio version (someone else's interpretation of the words, etc). However, I still like the characters and series enough to continue. In this episode the character development was even stronger because Martin Beck was investigating th ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so if you want to read the good shit always go to the source. For Nordic Crime's first big heavy hitters? At least for my generation: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. I picked up The Laughing Policeman #4 in the Martin Beck series, which I could've sworn I'd read before – but apparently that was eons ago as nothing was familiar (I think I've even seen the movie, but still drew a blank). Awesome, man. Even being a bit dated: protests against the Vietnam War etc. the story still stood up. Well writ ...more
Crime fiction is probably the most exciting genre. While there are many in its league but a reader like me who wants a good story with a decent dose of suspense would appreciate this book. If you are looking for a hard core suspense with twists and turns that keep you in knots, then this is not the book for you. It has all the ingredients for one, but you need to enjoy it like a cup of English tea.

For more read here:
Aug 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature, mysteries
I am even more convinced that this is one of the best mystery series in publication. I am thrilled the new reprint introduced me to the authors. I can easily see how and why this series is a model for today's writers to follow. There is very little in the way of fireworks, but simply tight little stories told with realism and restraint. I read many fine books, but this is in a class by itself. ...more
Halley Sutton
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Solidly enjoyable mystery with satisfying police work throughout and pretty clever and funny. I'm used to/into mystery novels that introduce the villain early on and this wasn't that--the mystery is solved in the last 20 pages--but very much enjoyed. ...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)
  • Roseanna (Martin Beck, #1)
  • The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (Martin Beck, #2)
  • The Man on the Balcony (Martin Beck, #3)
  • 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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