The Man on the Balcony

The Man on the Balcony is the third book in Sjowall and Wahloo’s Martin Beck series and is a reminder of just how revolutionary the books were when they were first published. For this one Beck is back in Sweden and the man on the balcony in the title is, in fact, a paedophile and, although there is nothing explicit within the novel, this must have been shocking enough when the crime fiction genre was largely restricted to American gumshoe thrillers and English country house murders. It is also a powerful statement about the dysfunctionality of liberal social democracies and a criticism especially of those social democracies that are in denial abourt their own dysfunctionality. It is indeed a testament to the influence that Sjowall and Wahloo’s books have had on a whole generation of crime writers throughout the world that we no longer find a crime novel about a paedophile shocking. That there are no areas of human behaviour that are too distasteful for crime writers to explore is in no small part due to this groundbreaking series of books.

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