The Fire Engine That Disappeared

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

Hugely acclaimed, the Martin Beck series were the original Scandinavian crime novels and have inspired the writings of Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo.

Written in the 1960s, 10 books completed in 10 years, they are the work of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – a husband and wife team from Sweden. They follow the fortunes of the detective Martin Beck, whose enigmatic, taciturn character has inspired countless other policemen in crime fiction; without his creation Ian Rankin’s John Rebus or Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander may never have been conceived. The novels can be read separately, but are best read in chronological order, so the reader can follow the characters’ development and get drawn into the series as a whole.

Gunvald Larsson sits carefully observing the dingy Stockholm apartment of a man under police surveillance. He looks at his watch: nine minutes past eleven in the evening. He yawns, slapping his arms to keep warm. At the same moment the house explodes, killing at least three people.

Chief Inspector Martin Beck and his men don’t suspect arson or murder until they discover a peculiar circumstance and a link is established between the explosion and a suicide committed that same day, in which the dead man left a note consisting of just two words: Martin Beck.

Reviews of The Fire Engine That Disappeared

  • ‘Superbly well done. It stars the gloomy head of homicide, Martin Beck, and is stunning right up to the last paragraph. The authors are ready for the great Simenon.’ New York Magazine

    ‘The tale proceeds at a fast clip, inventive and tantalizing as the pieces of the puzzle alternately fit together and fly apart…“The Fire Engine that Disappeared” is downright fascinating.’ Publishers Weekly

    ‘A gripping read, brilliantly plotted and with frequent moments of hilarity or tenderness.’ The Guardian

    Praise for Sjöwall and Wahlöö:

    ‘Plots are interesting as well as realistic, the various homicide men are admirably characterised, and the amused, sarcastic comments on modern Sweden are a delight.’ Sunday Times

    ‘The writing is elegant and surprisingly humorous – if you haven’t come across Beck before, you’re in for a treat.’ Guardian

    ‘One of the most authentic, gripping and profound collections of police procedurals ever accomplished.’ Michael Connelly