And so to the seventh in the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. The story begins with the murder, with a bayonet, of a senior police officer convalescing in hospital and leads to a killing spree (culminating in a bloody climax) aimed at the police force, against whom the killer appears to hold a grudge. This is arguably the most persistently violent of the Beck novels so far, but as the novel progresses what is exposed is a history of police corruption, violence and victimisation at the centre orf which is the initial victim. Indeed as the the violence increases, so does our sympathy with the killer as we come to understand him as a victim of a greater injustice. Once again Sjowall and Wahloo use the detective novel form to raise questions about the nature of justice, guilt and blame. Ironically, it is not the killer who is shown to be abominable – he is simply to be pitied – but the initial victim and his cronies who are the true abominable men.
Disappointingly, this is the first book in the series that is published without an introduction by a modern crime writer. A little bit of a shame, I suppose.