Inspector Martin Beck, 5

September 9, 2011

A heat wave and a wildfire on the side of Mt. Hood are making Portland not the place to be. Time for a trip to the coast and some end-of-summer reading: The Fire Engine That Disappeared, step 5 in the Martin Beck series.

Like the book that immediately preceded it, Vietnam protesters are in Stockholm’s streets and crime-solving continues to be a team effort involving many people. Also, as we’ve seen before, hunting for certain people, dead and living, takes time. Months pass in the flick of a sentence.

Although the series is named for Martin Beck, he’s almost hidden in this story. Although he still lives at home with his wife and two teen-aged children, his relationship with his wife is nearly completely dead. The authors prefer instead to dwell on the romantic/sexual antics of the other cops, especially the perpetually hungry and horny Kollberg (it is quite amusing watching this Swedish Falstaff get torn apart over the competing priorities of food or sex). The contrast between Beck and Kollberg, who are the best of friends, is marked. In ch. 5 we get, “Not that he [Beck] had anything much to hurry home for. But Lennart Kollberg had. He … had a fine wife called Gun.” And, as the next few sentences make clear, her sexual appetite matches or exceeds his own. A “fine wife” indeed.

Just as I was beginning to lose my sympathy for Beck, the book provided evidence of his new-found and touching attachment to his daughter, Ingrid. Unfortunately, just as we are given this one hopeful thread of familial love, it’s snatched away in ch. 22, “For Martin Beck, the holiday weekend proved extremely trying. He was feeling a gnawing anxiety about the case, which was clearly about to become totally entangled, and apart from his rapidly developing virus infection, he received yet another blow of an even more private nature. Ingrid, his daughter, informed him that she was thinking of moving away from home. There was nothing unnatural or surprising about this. She would soon be seventeen and she was grown-up in most respects. She was also sensible and mature. Naturally she had a right to live her own life and do as she thought best. It was true that for a long time he had seen this moment approaching, but what he had not been able to foresee was his own reaction. His mouth went dry and he felt slightly dizzy. He sneezed helplessly, but said nothing, for he knew her well and knew that she had not taken this decision without weighing the situation thoroughly and at length.”

Martin, my man, I’m very sorry. Believe me, if there was a way to make life otherwise, I would have tried it by now.


One Response to “Inspector Martin Beck, 5”

  1. […] from the heat of the summer, Sweden is a dreary place. The inside of Inspector Martin Beck’s soul is a dreary place practically […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: