- first published 1964
- this edition translated from Swedish into English by Sarah Death
- published by Vintage Books 2011
- ISBN 978-0-09955469
- 215 pages
- source: my local library
In an unnamed country, in an unnamed year sometime in the future, Chief Inspector Jensen of the Sixteenth Division is called in after the publishers controlling the entire country's newspapers and magazines receive a threat to blow up their building, in retaliation for a murder they are accused of committing. The building is evacuated, but the bomb fails to explode and Jensen is given seven days in which to track down the letter writer.
Jensen has never had a case he could not solve before, but as his investigation into the identity of the letter writer begins it soon becomes clear that the directors of the publishers have their own secrets, not least the identity of the 'Special Department' on the thirty first floor; the only department not permitted to be evacuated after the bomb threat.
This novel comes before THE STEEL SPRING which I reviewed recently. Again it is a dystopian novel. In the unnamed country crime rates are falling and so are birth rates, but the government has recently made it illegal to become inebriated not only in public but also at home. Every night the jails are filled with drunks, and the government makes a small fortune by fining the inebriates.
Publishing of all sorts has become a monopoly of the group that owns The Skyscraper, the 31 storey building that dominates the capital city's skyline. As a result the people are fed a bland diet of feel good material whatever their choice of reading. The Skyscraper employs over 4,000 people and these all have to be evacuated when the bomb threat arrives by post. Stopping the presses even for a short time is extremely expensive, and the managing director of the publishing group contacts the chief of police for advice and immediate action. Neither is pleased when Chief Inspector Jensen advises that they must evacuate the building as he can't guarantee safety of those inside. However there is no bomb.
Jensen is given seven days to find out who sent the threat. His life is complicated by the fact that the pain that eventually sends him out of the country for a transplant in THE STEEL SPRING is ever present, but he is a dogged investigator and eventually finds out the truth.
This is not your every day crime fiction novel and those who have no taste for political polemic or satire might like to steer clear of it.
My rating: 4.3
I've also reviewed - Sjowall, Maj & Wahloo, Per:
4.7, THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE
4.5, THE FIRE ENGINE THAT DISAPPEARED
4.5, MURDER AT THE SAVOY
4.7, THE ABOMINABLE MAN
4.1 THE STEEL SPRING
I read this for my participation in the Vintage Mystery Bingo.