Commissioner Martin Beck is the original Swedish detective, the inspiration for cops like Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander.  Written years ago , much before the popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo , it was even was made into  a popular Hollywood movie. Very Scandinavian. The weather is gloomy, the landscape is lonely and brooding and there is an undercurrent of violence.

It’s hard being a policeman. Martin Beck has a bad back and a nagging wife. He’s lately taken to sleeping on the extra bed in the drawing room. Now he has a mystery murder that refuses to be solved A bus full of people has been shot. One of them includes an ambitious young police detective called Ake Stenstrom, who had no ostensible reason for being on the bus.

The policemen theorize. Detectives Kollberg and Melander discuss the mystery homicide and their role in a violent society . ” The crux of the problem is of course..the paradox that the police profession in itself calls for the highest intelligence and exceptional mental, physical and moral qualities in its practicians but has nothing to attract the individuals who possess them ” says Melander.

In the meantime , the homicide continues to baffle the detectives. Added to the mix are some revealing photographs, two nymphomaniacs , an immigrant worker , a drug smuggler and an earlier murder. The case is cracked with all these coming together in a satisfying if somewhat unsensational denouement.