The Steel Spring, By Per Wahlöö (Trs by Sarah Death)

Godfather ofthe Nordic crime wave

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The Independent Culture

Best known for the popular Martin Beck detective series, which he co-wrote with his wife Maj Sjöwall, the late Per Wahlöö was a progenitor of modern Scandinavian crime fiction.

The Steel Spring (1968), reissued this month by Vintage, is one of his lesser-known works, a dystopian thriller in which a grizzled gumshoe investigates a coup d'etat in an unnamed European state. The premise is intriguing, although there is rather too much exposition, and the novel ultimately lacks drama. Still, the themes are topical: the coup in question turns out to have been the result of a government attempt to privatise the state health service, a move that led to riots, epidemics and genocide. Food for thought, eh Mr Cameron?

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