The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo: Sweden in the 1960’s

The Laughing Policeman is one of a series of police procedurals featuring Superintendant Martin Beck and Detective Lennert Kollberg as well as several other detectives. Book cover for The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per WahlooWritten in the late 60’s and early 70’s by a husand and wife team, these are really wonderful slices of Swedish society, police work, and a darkly comic view of the human animal.

Nearly every person in The Laughing Policeman behaves in predictably irritating and selfish ways, the weather is miserable and gets worse, and solving the case requires hours of boring, tedious investigation. Nonethless, Beck and Kollberg are engaging precisely because they, too, are fully human. They persist despite the tedium of the work, and the rare moments of connection and delight are rewarding.

This and the others in the series are exceptionally well-written and a great antidote to the endless “thrill-ride” of most current mysteries and thrillers. The series has recently been re-released in trade paper. Those who enjoy the classics of the genre and those who enjoy dark comedy will love this series.