Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö

Presented to the Calgary Women’s Literary Club by Anne-Marie Duma,

November 17, 2020

Maj Sjowall (1935 – 2020) and Per Wahloo (1926 – 1975) are considered the creators of Nordic noir crime genre. Their ten-book series (The Martin Beck Mystery Series) are also known as the ‘The Story of Crime’.

The authors stated goals in 1966 were: “the basic idea is via one long novel of approximately three thousand pages divided into ten free-standing parts or books each of which has thirty chapters. These books also represent a cross-section of a society that possesses a specific structure and to analyze criminality as a social function as well as its relationship to both society and its various types of moral lifestyles that encompasses the society in questions”.

While these books are a police procedural series, solving the crime is less important than why the crime occurred.  The authors wanted to present a critique of the Swedish welfare state as it was at that time, to demonstrate that it was not a panacea but a social experiment that failed a large part of society, especially the working class.

Selected Bibliography:

  • Roseanna
  • The Man Who Went Up in Smoke
  • The Man on the Balcony
  • The Laughing Policeman
  • The Fire Engine That Disappeared
  • Murder at the Savoy
  • The Abominable Man
  • The Locked Room
  • Cup Killer
  • The Terrorists