Cop Killer is the nineth and penultimate novel in the Martin Beck series and again concentrates not on one, but on two separate cases, seemingly unconnected, but which become connected in the manner in which they are played out. The first of these cases concerns the brutal sexual murder of a young woman in a remore rural location, where by coincidence, the man convicted of the Roseanna muder in the first Martin Beck novel, now resides, after having been released from prison. Inevitably he falls under suspicion. It draws our attention inevitably that all the novels in the series are intended to be read as ten separate episodes in one larger novel. The second case concerns an incident where a policeman is shot and killed by a pair of desparate, teenage petty thieves in Stockholm. The two crimes stand in contrast to each other, in terms of location and premeditation, as well as the social milieus (bougeois and working-class) they inhabit.
One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is the introduction of the character of Herrgott Allwright, the rural police officer in charge of the rural murder investigation until Beck arrives on the scene. Allwright, a rural police officer, represents everything that policing in Stockholm is not. He is a sympathetic character who polices honestly and sensitively in the interests of the community – an idealistic portrayal of what policing ought to be about in a liberal democracy and the kind of policeman that Beck would like to be if he had the chance. In contrast stands Lennaret Kollberg, Beck’s partner in Stockholm who, dislliusioned with what policing has become, is contemplating resigning from the force. And herein lies the usual ambiguity in the title. Whilst at face value the title may refer to the tennagers who in the heat of the moment shoot a policeman in the second of the crimes, it is really not a single police officer, but the whole concept of policing by consent that is the victim, represented by Kollberg, and the killer is society in general. As in The Locked Room, Cop Killer abounds with witty and outspoken social criticism.