Another sure-fire good read is any book by May Sjowall and Per Wahloo. Thank you Lisa Becker for turning me on to them. They wrote books about the Swedish police in the ’60s and ’70s. They have great characters, starting with inspector Martin Beck and his associates, and great situations that are clearly drawn from real-life police work.
Martin Beck has one huge buddy who likes expensive sportscars and has a habit of crashing through doors like they were made out of cardboard, another guy who’s great at analyzing records and forensic evidence.
And there are loads of comedic politicans posturing and perorating and generally screwing things up.
But what’s really great is the way they analyze minute bits of evidence and slowly but surely solve the cases. It’s always really well done and — is this a theme of my blog? — they’re clearly written by someone with firsthand knowledge of law enforcement.
A lot of the time, though, you wish they’d let the murderer go, because the victim turns out to be someone so loathsome they had it coming big time, like the drug dealer who is killed by the father of a girl he lured into pornography or “The Abominable Man,” who is truly abominable.
One of their books is called, “The Cop Killer,” where this hitchhiker is picked up by a homicidal maniac. The cops pull them over and the maniac, trying to shoot it out, dies in a hail of gunfire.
One of the policemen dives into a ditch and is stung by a bee. The policeman is allergic to bee stings and dies. So everyone is chasing this poor hitchhiker who is branded as a “cop killer.” As I said, it’s the kind of thing you couldn’t possibly write unless you had firsthand knowledge of police work.
There’s “Roseanna,” where Martin Beck and his buddies do some amazing detective work with very slim bits of physical evidence to find out who killed this woman on a ferry, “The Fire Engine That Disappeared,” which is also very clever and “The Man Who Went Up in Smoke” where Martin Beck goes behind the Iron Curtain to Hungary and meets a detective a lot like himself.
Then there’s “The Laughing Policeman,” “Murder at the Savoy,” “The Man on the Balcony,” and there may be others — but take my word for it, they’re all superb reads.