Day 212: Roseanna

Cover for RoseannaApparently Roseanna is a classic of Swedish crime fiction. Written in 1965 by the team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, it is a compelling police procedural that has sent me to the book stores looking for more.

Lake Vattern is being dredged on a July afternoon when up comes the naked body of a young woman. Autopsy results find she has been violently sexually assaulted and strangled. Detective Inspector Martin Beck and his colleagues Ahlberg, Kollberg, and Melander at first have difficulty even identifying the body.

After months of inquiries, they learn she is a librarian from Nebraska named Roseanna McGraw.  Once they know that, it takes awhile longer to deduce that she must have been killed on a canal boat named the Diana, during a trip when engine trouble delayed her passage through the lake until midnight.

As with other Scandinavian mysteries I have read, the pace is slower and probably more realistic than American procedurals until the police finally identify a suspect. Then, in that time when forensic evidence is so much more limited than at present, they find no evidence linking him to the murder except some hazy snapshots of the two together on the boat. Martin and his team must find some other way to prove he is the murderer.

It’s hard to define why I found this novel so much more enjoyable than some of the more recent Swedish mysteries. It is written in a spare, tight prose. The solution is plausible instead of too convoluted. The characters seem fully defined. The book drew me in, and I was not disappointed.

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