Rob Kitchin's Reviews > Roseanna

Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall
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's review
Aug 01, 2012

really liked it

Roseanna is credited with introducing a new kind of crime writing – socially realist police procedurals that provided accounts of the everyday lives of ordinary police officers, the interlinking of various agencies, the banal politics of personal and institutional interactions, the mundane and tedious practices of detection, and the role of crime in society. The police officers are, for the most part, ordinary people doing difficult jobs, trying to balance home commitments with the demands of being a detective. And this is what is striking about Roseanna. There is a sense of progression, but it is not driven along at breakneck speed, with an endless succession of cliffhangers. Instead the story meanders along at a relatively sedate pace, detailing how the case is patiently and dogmatically investigated, eventually reaching a relatively understated climax. In fact, the whole book feels a little understated, telling the story in a quite functional style, with little to no back story concerning the characters, and no excess description. The characterisation is fine, although I never really felt I got to know any of them to any great extent, and the plotting is carefully constructed. I suspect that if Sjowall and Wahloo were to seek publication for Roseanna today they would be encouraged to spice up the story, rev up the pace, and add in a whole lot of tension, and I guess I’m so attuned to that now that I spent the first fifty pages wondering when things were going to change gear. But the gear change is really not needed; sometimes less is more. Nevertheless, I find it quite difficult to conceive Roseanna as a book that broke the mould and started a new way of writing crime fiction given the vast quantity of work that follows in their path, some of which advances what they started and branches off in new directions. That said, it is a fine piece of work that reads just as well now as it no doubt did forty years ago.

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