The body of a woman in her late twenties is found while dredging of Lake Vattern. The local police at Motala headed by Ahlberg and Martin Beck from Stockholm police try to find out about the woman. There is no missing woman report identical to the woman found dead. Who is the woman? How did she end up in the canal? Why is nobody looking for her?
The story uses a matter-of-fact narration and is very straightforward and engaging, starts with the finding of the body in a lake to the apprehension of the perpetrator of the crime. The following monologue by Martin Beck gives an insight into Martin Beck and sets the tone not only for this novel but also the other books in the series, at least the ones I have read.
'You are stubborn and logical, and completely calm. You don't allow yourself to lose your composure and you act only professionally on a case, whatever it is. Words like repulsive, horrible, and bestial belong in the newspapers, not in your thinking. A murderer is a regular human being, only more unfortunate and maladjusted'
Martin spends sleepless nights trying to find out about the dead woman and her killer. As in real life, things don't happen in a jiffy. It takes time to get the first break. They learn that the victim is Roseanna, an American travelling alone in a cruise ship, limiting the suspects to the eighty-five passengers and crew of the ship. Did one of the eighty-five people kill her? Or is it somebody else? To track eighty-five people is no easy job, especially when the passengers belong to different countries, but with the help of authorities in other countries they track them. After the first break there is some activity and then again there is a lull and finally the case is solved. The case takes months to solve but Martin and Ahlberg are determined to find the culprit and find they did.
A great beginning to a great series.