Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Roseanna (1965)

Mr. Smithereens was right.

The owners of that little bookshop in Brittany were right.

Kate was right too!

I should have given my attention to this book a lot earlier, what a great mystery!

Perhaps even my favourite mystery of the year up till now (and there were solid contenders like Josephine Tey and Frank Tallis in line). Roseanna is impressive for realism, for suspense and for sheer writing skills. The language is terse, there are a lot of conversations. Not one word is in excess, but emotions (indignation, anger, determination, pity) don’t need flowery descriptions to show on the surface.

But perhaps my exaltation doesn’t really suit “Roseanna”. It’s a police procedural that sticks to the facts. Nothing much happens for a long, long time, but believe me, it’s riveting. How so? Because in real life it takes a lot of dedication and energy not to abandon a cold case, and you can’t help but admire Martin Beck and his team from the Swedish police.

The naked body of a young woman is discovered in a canal. No identification is made. She’s not from the area. There’s absolutely no clue for whole months, until it can be ascertained that the body has been thrown from a boat and a passenger’s name can be traced. She’s Roseanna McGraw, an American tourist travelling on a boat. How a young woman from halfway across the globe can end her life in a Swedish canal? Funnily enough, Martin Beck’s world is as global as ours. Despite bad telephone lines, no internet and no Fedex to communicate physical clues and information, Martin Beck’s team painstakingly contact tourists from all over the world who have all travelled on that boat, as well as staff members who have moved on to other jobs.

That book should probably come with a warning: “Slow Book”. But surprisingly, faster books (and entertainment) come out at a disadvantage. I’ve started watching The Mentalist series on TV (with Simon Baker as Patrick Jane) right after I’d started Roseanna, and I couldn’t be bothered with the tricks and “jumping on conclusions” of the program. It seemed faked and superficial compared to the Swedish police.

10 thoughts on “Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Roseanna (1965)

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