Books: “Murder at the Savoy,” “The Abominable Man”

Murder at the Savoy is the sixth book (of 10 total) in the Martin Beck series, by Swedes Maj Sjowal and Per Wahloo. The series has ten books in all, written from 1965-1975. While Martin Beck is the main character, he’s not a dominant lead; most of the books scatter the story among an ensemble cast.

Murder at the Savoy begins with a man walking into a dinner gathering and shooting, in the head, a powerful Swedish industrialist named Viktor Palmgren. He then escapes through a window.

The assassination occurs in the southern city of Malmo, which is home to another famous Swedish policeman, Kurt Wallender (from the series by Henning Mankell). Martin Beck, based in Stockholm, gets sent to Malmo to investigate, and he teams up with Malmo policemen to try to figure out the who and why of the murder.

They pursue threads involving Palmgren’s wife, a couple men heading up some of Palmgren’s business interests, Palmgren’s involvement in African gun-running, and other paths. In the end, it’s resolved in a way I didn’t expect, but which was somewhat anti-climactic to me.

I’ve enjoyed the Martin Beck series, but this book seemed sub-par. Even the title, Murder at the Savoy, seems like the authors weren’t really trying. I finished the book, stuck it on the shelf, and proceeded to the next book in the series, The Abominable Man.

Once again, as is their habit, the authors start with a murder. This time, it’s a hospitalized police inspector who, while in his hospital room, is brutally killed with a bayonet. The usual characters assemble to solve the mystery. The plot resolves in a much more straightforward way than Murder at the Savoy.

The murder victim is the title character, “the abominable man.” He’s a sadistic, brutal guy who trained other cops in his ways. It makes for an interesting character. But the authors didn’t really do anything with the character.  And who killed him? We never learn much about him. When a list is discovered of other police targets, Martin Beck is on the list…but we’re never told why. The killer had a motive for killing the “abominable” guy, but not for killing anyone else. There is a killing spree at the end, but again, it’s all pointless, without motive.

I didn’t like either of these books. I’ve enjoyed the previous Martin Beck books, but these two were really lame.

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