Length: 245 pages
Translated by: Lois Roth
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
On a summer afternoon in July, the naked body of a woman is pulled up from the depths of Lake Vattern. An accidental discovery, the body sets into motion a case that lasts months and leaves every person involved with an ever growing list of questions. And it takes over the thoughts and life of Inspector Martin Beck. But Beck’s frustration only grows as, months after the case, he has almost nothing to go on except for the fact that the woman was named Roseanna and was from the United States. As he slowly begins to uncover the events of Roseanna’s last few days, he comes across secrets harbored by many other people. And not all of them are willing to disclose the truth, especially when the truth puts their lives at stake. Yet, Martin Beck refuses to quit, pitting himself, and many others, against a ruthless, unknown killer. Can he find the person responsible for Roseanna’s gruesome murder before more people get hurt?
The first thing to know about Roseanna is that it has not originally been written in English, but translated into it. And that has a huge impact on the reading experience.
The second thing to know is that it is quite different from books that originate in other regions. You need to be prepared for a certain amount of bluntness, for lack of a better word. This tendency is either a result of the translation or simply a cultural aspect. Either way, you need to go into the book knowing that it won’t beat around the bush and may even come across as a bit odd in writing style, until you get used to it.
The characters of Roseanna come alive easily, making them easy to relate to. It’s the same for the setting of the book, which has been described in detail that is interesting and not so descriptive as to take you away from the story. The storyline, itself, is full of unexpected twists and turns, making the book a fast-paced read even as it unfolds over a period of months.
The positive thing about Roseanna is the way it keeps going, without letting up even for a moment. Even the parts in which not much happens are presented with a sense of urgency, allowing readers to easily associate with the characters’ emotions. The negative aspect is its bluntness. As a result, readers will find Roseanna a book that makes them turn pages relentlessly, or one that they simply cannot read.
And one of the primary causes of this is the main protagonist, Martin Beck. Beck has a strange personality that makes you both, like and dislike him. Yet, you find yourself rooting for him, and wanting to know more about him.
That, and the odd but captivating way in which Roseanna has been written, did make me want to read more. Sjöwall and Wahlöö may not make it to the top of my list of favorite crime fiction authors, I will definitely be following their work, especially the Martin Beck series. Anyone with an interest in crime fiction should definitely give them a shot, because whether you like their work or not, they have a style of their own that is worth experiencing. And if you’ve already read some of their books, comment below and let people know what you liked or disliked about them.