Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö: Top Crime Ficion Series

Maj Sjöwall was born in 1935. She is a writer and journalist in Sweden. Per Wahlöö was born in Göteborg in 1926. After finishing his studies in 1946 he worked as a journalist. Per Wahlöö died in Stockholm on June 23, 1975.

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, both journalists and both politically radical, met in 1961 while working for Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloomagazines published by the same company. They married the next year and the carefully planned crime series (essentially police procedurals), 10 books in 10 years, was written in the evenings, after their children had been put to bed. The series is called "The Story of a Crime".

According to Wahlöö, their intention was to "use the crime novel as a scalpel cutting open the belly of the ideological pauperized and morally debatable so-called welfare state of the bourgeois type." How well they succeeded as far as the social criticism of the Swedish welfare state is concerned, is open to debate. However, what they did succeed in, was the creation of one of the most interesting and wonderful series of crime fiction novels ever. While each of the books may be read individually as a stand alone crime novel, this well designed series contains a rich, intriguing and fascinating set of side stories about the main character Martin Beck and his family, the dynamics of the group of detectives working with him, and the intrigues and struggles within the police force. Martin Beck and his colleagues at the Central Bureau of Investigation in Stockholm are the main characters of the series.

In our opinion, this is one of the top five series of crime fiction books ever written (but see also Stieg Larsson). Some firmly place it in the number one spot. Sjowall and Wahloo also won the Edgar Allan Poe award for best crime fiction book in 1971. The stories are great, it works as a series, it is excellently written, the plots are rich and well executed, and the books are both interesting, engaging, and funny as well. Great reads. How much more do you want?

Also, we should mention that due to the relatively important role played by the side stories (Beck's family, the characters of the detectives, and so on), it is highly recommended that you read these books in the sequence in which they were published. The books will simply bring more joy if you do it this way.

Please note that some of the books are not available from The pictures of the books point to (are links to) amazon US. However, all of them can be found at, and seem (currently) to be available.