Friday, August 17, 2012
Review of The Man on the Balcony by Majs Sjowall and Per Wahloo (1967, translated 1968)
The Man on the Balcony is the third instalment of the Martin Beck series of police procedurals written by the husband and wife team of Sjowall and Wahloo between 1965-75. The books are characterised by an understated social realism. Beck and his colleagues are normal, everyday people with differing egos, foibles, frailties, talents and opinions, trying to balance work with their home lives. The investigation unfolds in fits and starts, with painstaking footwork, frustrating interviews, and little doses of luck. There’s little machismo, no maverick geniuses and little in the way of heroics - just the police getting on and doing their jobs. In this book, Sjowall and Wahloo start to broaden out the focus from Beck to introduce more of the team and the characterisation is keenly observed. The plot is fairly standard police procedural fare and hinges on a couple of coincidences, but what makes the story work is the realism and its telling. There’s a lovely cadence to the storytelling, a kind of gentle, instant rhythm. Overall, a solid addition to the series.