The Fire Engine that Disappeared is the fifth book in the Martin Beck series, police procedurals, written by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. In this book Martin Beck of Stockholm plays a very small role and his team solves the mystery.
A man commits suicide in Stockholm and the police find Martin Beck's name written on a paper in his home. Was the man planning to call Martin Beck to inform him about anything? The case is suicide and is closed.
A man is under surveillance and his apartment complex bursts into flame. While the policeman in charge Gunvald Larsson saves the lives of eight residents, the man under surveillance and two others are dead. The fire Engine takes forever to reach the spot. The Fire Engine seems to have disappeared. But this is not the only fire Engine that disappears. Ronn, one of the officers in Beck's team, gifts his son a Fire Engine which also disappears. The boy has been unwell and did not leave the home for a while but his foot long fire engine has disappeared. Will Beck and his team solve the problem of the real and toy Fire Engines that disappeared?
I liked the underlying humour and turn of phrase in the book. For Example,
The question of the cause of the fire was Melander's headache, apart from the fact that he had never had a headache.
The blow that produced a veritable constellation of stars was delivered before lunch on the following day, that is, Wednesday, the twentieth of March, and it was Kollberg who quite undeservedly received it.
Interaction between the pathologist and Kollberg is funny. First the crime scene personnel pick up everything and anything and put in an evidence bag for analyses and then Ronn calls up and says the case has been closed and they can throw everything away. Then Larsson calls up to say that the case isn't closed and it's very important. Then Hammar tells him the case is closed. Then Beck calls up enquiring if they found something unusual. When the Pathologists has something important to say he cannot reach any one of them.
As a police procedural the story portrays the conflicts between different police personnel. While Kollberg believes that 'Larsson is not what you'd call a great brain', Larsson believes Sckake is a fool. While they disparage one and another and definitely dislike one another, they all work together efficiently producing results. Melander does the crime scene. Larsson solves the mystery of the (real) Fire Engine that disappeared with help from Ronn. Skacke, who hopes to become the Chief of Police, does the door to door, 'Operation Door-Knocking', to find the mysterious caller. Finally, it is police inspector Mansson of Malmo, third largest city in Sweden, who unties the major knots in the story and also solves the mystery of the toy fire engine that disappeared. Interesting Police Procedural.
I read the second book in the series The man who went up in smoke last year. I look forward to reading all the other books in this series.
Translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate and first published in English in 1971.