THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE - Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
A journalist has vanished without a trace in Budapest. When Martin Beck arrives in the city to investigate, he is drawn into an Eastern European underworld in search of a man nobody knows. What he discovers will put his life at risk.
Swedish Detective Inspector Martin Beck is a master of human nature and relentless in his pursuit of criminals. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke is the second in the Martin Beck series.
I'm still dipping into this reprint series from Harper Perennial with a profound sense of gratitude for the fact that they are bringing these fabulous books back to our attention. Originally copyrighted in 1966 THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE sees the only time Wahloo and Sjowall take Martin way outside his comfort zone - to Budapest to investigate the disappearance of a Swedish journalist - he seems to have literally gone up in smoke!
Martin is called back from a family holiday - sort of - well not quite - grudgingly to work on this task in the heights of the European summer - in a country he's never been to before; with a local police force that doesn't really know why he's there; in the height and strangeness of another culture; in an Eastern European underworld that doesn't make sense. And he has to do this in an era before fax machines, before mobile telephones, before email - just an infrequent scratchy telephone call back home to try to find some details about who the missing man is in the first place.
In classic Sjowall/ Wahloo style Martin wanders his way around the problem, doing a little, thinking a lot and seeing more than anybody realises to find, firstly what on earth this journalist was up to and finally where he ended up.
In this edition, Val McDermid wrote the forward and, as is the way with this series, these forwards provide a valuable insight into just how wide the influence of this Swedish pair of writers has been - just to quote one small part of the excellent introduction:
"Discovering dedicated mystery booksellers was a bit like going to heaven without having to die first. There were so many crime writers whose books were available in the US only - ironically, some of them British - and in those pre-Internet days, the only apparent way to acquire them was physically to go there and buy them. Which I did. In industrial quantities. Among the books in the holdall were ten paperbacks in the black livery of Vintage Press. They comrpised a decalogue of crime novels written by the Swedish husband-wife team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. They'd been on my must-read list since I'd read about them in Julian Symonds' definitive overview of the genre, Bloody Murder. "
Val's introduction is as worth reading as the book itself.