Harry's Reviews > Roseanna

Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall
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bookshelves: nordic-crime-fiction, detective-mystery

Book Review

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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 have been written today. Of course, back then everyone smoked, no computers or cell phones, and everyone ate their dinner and lunch in cafes and used public phones and/or land lines. But you hardly notice it when reading the novel. Clearly, Per and Mah were very focused on delineating a series based on the National Homicide bureau in fictional form but based on reality. Verisimilitude was used in the police procedurals but tidbits that might age the novel (such as the mention of products, companies, or processes of the time) are not present.

As police procedurals go, the pair are masters of their art. From the very first we encounter an thorough examination of the decision making of the various agencies involved when encountering Roseanna's body in the sludge of the Gota Canal. As with Mankell's Kurt Wallander, Martin Beck is a dogged policeman who despite months going by never gives up and keeps pounding the pavement for clues as to the identity of the killer. For courtroom thriller enthusiasts, the lean prose is interspersed with fascinating transcripts of interviews with possible suspect lending the novel a highly realistic form while simultaneously inviting the reader to solve the crime ahead of Beck.

Immigration, as with most Scandinavian novels, makes its appearance and throughout the novel Maj and Per place tidbits that with a certain sense of alertness can give the novels a heightened sense of appeal. For example, Henning in his introduction noticed the following:

"There is one small detail on the second page of the novel that fascinates me when I see it again. The story begins in early July, with the date clearly specified. A dredging boat has arrived at the canal in Ortergotland. The authors write: 'The vessel...moored at Borenshult as the neighborhood children and a Vietnamese tourist looked on.' A Vietnamese tourist! In Sweden in 1965! That may have happened once at most. But, here the authors are giving a nod to the major event of my generation: the Vietnam war."

Having read this novel immediately following Henning's Faceless Killers I was personally struck by the similarity in style and perhaps even liking this one a tad bit better. Whether or not that view remains in place as I read both the Martin Beck and Kurt Wallander series, remains to be seen.

Enjoy!


--------------------------------------------------------------
Series Review

Two writers from the left, without too much argument, started it all where it concerns crime fiction in Scandinavia (the books were written in the sixties). Jo Nesbo considers this team of writers the Godfathers of Scandinavia crime fiction. Henning Mankell perhaps the most famous Nordic writer of them all often makes references to Per and Maj as having influenced his work. In the words of Barry Forsaw whose Death in a Cold Climate: a Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction serves as the Bible for Nordic readers says of these authors: "Their continuing influence (since the death of Per Wahlöö) remains prodigious."

Briefly: Wahlöö was born in Tölö parish, Kungsbacka Municipality, Halland. After his studies, from 1946 onwards he worked as a crime reporter. After long trips around the world he returned to Sweden and started working as a journalist again. He had a 13 year relationship with his colleague Maj Sjöwall but never married. Both were Marxists.He has been married to Inger Wahlöö, née Andersson. He was brother to Claes Wahlöö. He died of cancer at Malmö in 1975, aged 48. His work (independent of his collaboration with Maj on the Martin Beck series) primarily consists of his Dictatorship series and the two novels featuring Inspector Jensen.

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 for Best Novel.They also wrote novels separately.

Until recently, it was considered a scandal that publishing houses offered no translations of these two highly influential authors. But as the Nordic crime wave hit British and American soil (beginning in the nineties), this egregious blot on the reputation of publishers was finally remedied...albeit late in the game. There were simply too many crime writers that cited Per and Maj as the fountain head of the socially committed crime novel. Yet one more example that everything starts at the grass roots level and then filters up into the corporate halls of publishing.

Although not as prevelant as in the work of Per Wahlöö (see my review of Murder on the Thirty-first Floor), the left wing ideological views of the pair are common knowledge and can be viewed as interspersed throughout their famous Martin Beck series. I've often spoken in my reviews of Nordic fiction that aside from being excellent and compelling reads in the mystery genre, Nordic writers on the whole use this genre based platform to comment on sociopolitical issues of the day as that takes place in the Scandinavian countries. For their time, this pair of authors were considered the pioneers of this authorial attitude.

Now before you decide to forego this excellent series based on the Marxist ideology of its authors, let me assure you that Per and Maj's views at no point interfere with your appreciation of a good mystery novel. It might be said that their edgy point of view may be considered less important than the telling of a good tale. This too, is a hallmark of Scandinavian crime fiction: sociopolitical commentary never overshadows the story itself (though I would argue that in Per's novels written alone, this might not be the case).

For an understanding of the realism of their work within Scandinavian crime fiction as married to their political attitudes, I highly recommend a reading of these two authors, together, as well as (in the case of Per) his own work.






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Reading Progress

May 26, 2013 – Shelved
May 26, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
August 10, 2013 – Started Reading
August 12, 2013 – Finished Reading
January 3, 2014 – Shelved as: nordic-crime-fiction
January 3, 2014 – Shelved as: detective-mystery

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Also a really excellent TV series.....


Harry Sharon wrote: "Also a really excellent TV series....."

Hopefully available on Netflix (I'm about ready to get rid of cable all together) :-)


message 3: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Harry wrote: "Sharon wrote: "Also a really excellent TV series....."

Hopefully available on Netflix (I'm about ready to get rid of cable all together) :-)"


We have July Detective Month here in Holland and they showed the series again. Enjoy it. Another returning this week is Johan Falk. We have cable/digital and just rely on recording lots from various stations/countries. Not often I buy boxes as they are so expensive. Amazon have a new price rise by area policy that I truly take exception to! Have the three HBO, which is fine to a point but very happy to read we are expected to be on Netflix end this year! YES.... :-)

If you want to watch a very good series Varg Veum is a huge favourite!


message 4: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Harry:

Great job here and loved the background of the writers. Superb review, as usual.

You provide so much new information which I love. Sounds like a dynamite series and glad they (the publishing world) had the good sense to translate and publish in English.


Harry Sharon wrote: "If you want to watch a very good series Varg Veum is a huge favourite! "

As always, Sharon. You are so helpful and informative. I'm originally from Holland :-)


Harry Cathy wrote: "Sounds like a dynamite series and glad they (the publishing world) had the good sense to translate and publish in English. "

Thanks Cathy! As always, it's appreciated. Your latest reads have been out of the genre which I read...so haven't ha cause to comment much, but I read them!


message 7: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Harry wrote: "Cathy wrote: "Sounds like a dynamite series and glad they (the publishing world) had the good sense to translate and publish in English. "

Thanks Cathy! As always, it's appreciated. Your latest ..."


Just call me Skipper. I'm skipping all over the book world from genre to genre, thinking outside the box.

I have on my refrig, a picture of a cat looking at a cat box saying "I'm an independent cat who is sh***ing outside the box."

It just does me good to change things up a bit. I'll settle out eventually.

In the meantime, you keep reading these great books I've never heard of and posting your great reviews which I learn from!

More info than you asked for but...ah, who cares?


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael Outstanding review. Nice uncovering of the links between them and current writers. Am lucky to have scored a set of 8 of the series. Would be fun to read some in parallel with you.


Harry Michael wrote: "Outstanding review. Nice uncovering of the links between them and current writers. Am lucky to have scored a set of 8 of the series. Would be fun to read some in parallel with you."

Thanks! That sounds like fun, Michael. Dueling reviews! LOL. Of course, I'll have to intersperse my reading of these with the just newly released Cork O'Connor novel!


Jeffrey Keeten I'm not surprised, but still so very happy that you liked this book Harry. I need to get #2 read and reviewed before you hog all the spotlight. :-)You're writing such damn good reviews I'm going to have to raise the high bar another notch just to stay in the arena.


Harry Jeffrey wrote: "I'm not surprised, but still so very happy that you liked this book Harry. I need to get #2 read and reviewed before you hog all the spotlight. :-)You're writing such damn good reviews I'm going to..."

Yeah, right! This from the master at reviews! Thanks, Jeffrey...a gentleman as always. No worries, no hogging allowed. Michael and I are already planning some dueling reviews on this whole series as well as Wallander...so, the more the merrier!


message 12: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont I want to be the judge because EVERYONE knows that I'm fair and balanced.

Oh, I set the ground rules, too. And I make the final decision.

Oh, another thing...wait a minute, there must be another thing. Oh, I make up the rules as we need them, anytime I want. Rules as we go along.

And I'm available, too. To judge. Bribes gladly accepted. Do I have the job?


Harry Cathy wrote: "IOh, I make up the rules as we need them, anytime I want. "

Sorry, no rules Cath. That'd spoil all the fun!


message 14: by Jeffrey (last edited Aug 20, 2013 01:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey Keeten Cathy wrote: "I want to be the judge because EVERYONE knows that I'm fair and balanced.

Oh, I set the ground rules, too. And I make the final decision.

Oh, another thing...wait a minute, there must be ano..."


I believe that the POTJKFC should always be the judge of any dueling review scenario in which I am participating. (Hey sweet thang dinner and a movie?)


message 15: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Harry wrote: "Cathy wrote: "IOh, I make up the rules as we need them, anytime I want. "

Sorry, no rules Cath. That'd spoil all the fun!"


Harry: I can make a rule that there are no rules! In fact, I just made it! Bribes encouraged.


message 16: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Jeffrey wrote: "Cathy wrote: "I want to be the judge because EVERYONE knows that I'm fair and balanced.

Oh, I set the ground rules, too. And I make the final decision.

Oh, another thing...wait a minute, the..."


Oh, my, yes, yes, yes. No doubt there are perks that come with being the POTJKFC and this is one.

Oh, yes, yes, yes. This dame loves a nice candlelight dinner, good wine, and let's just skip the movie and get down to business. You got my number, big boy! That other guy needs to polish his act.


Harry Cathy wrote: "POTJKFC"

What does this mean? I know, I'm stupid but I don't know!


message 18: by Cathy (last edited Aug 20, 2013 03:28PM) (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Harry wrote: "Cathy wrote: "POTJKFC"

What does this mean? I know, I'm stupid but I don't know!"


Mike Sullivan knows...not you, Harry? You sure you're up to this challenge?

And don't pull that I'm stupid on us...all your friends know you're the brightest bulb in the room. Look at the above review would you?

I'm the one who doesn't know why there are two little dots over an "a" and a slash through an "o" in books you read. And I know you read them in Dutch or Hollandic or some language I never heard of.

So how about that dinner? Want to up the ante? I like the look of Ben Franklin.


Harry I still don't know what POTJKFC means! LOL


message 20: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Harry wrote: "I still don't know what POTJKFC means! LOL"

Sorrrry, I can't even see thhev kkkkkkkkkkkkkkeyboard I amm lauguging sooo mcjjch. Latter.


message 21: by Michael (new)

Michael Michael wrote: "Outstanding review. ... Would be fun to read some in parallel with you...
Harry wrote: "Thanks! That sounds like fun, Michael. Dueling reviews!"


Dueling like "Dueling Banjos" to me means that you (and Jeffrey) find the best ones, make me a believer in your review "Ta da da da dun dun dun", and then I follow in your footsteps and harmonize with "Da ta ta ta din din din".


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