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Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
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Philip K. Dick
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The Man on the Balcony

The Man on the Balcony - Alan Blair, Per Wahlöö, Maj Sjöwall I read this not long after Unwanted. I didn’t realise that the themes were related until after I pulled it off the shelf and decided to read it. If I had I might have gone for something else – I can only stomach so much child killing in a month. Instead I read it over a weekend and “enjoyed” it. The first few pages sent shivers down my spine – not metaphorically but literally. I felt a surge of tingling energy as I read because I knew I was reading something special. This specialness had put me off reading this book – the first two in the series were so good I was afraid they couldn’t keep up the pace. I think I can accept that all ten are going to be in the zone even if they do vary in quality. It’s been a while since I read books one and two so I can’t remember if they did this but there were a few points in this book where the quality dropped. Not a big deal, I’m talking about three or four times where a word annoyed me (eg, he said angrily – where I’d delete angrily). Those trivial points are the only gripes I have about an excellent book.Martin Beck seems to be in a transitional state during this book. He no longer has his old team around him – although for this case he did work with a few of them. His wife, normally a nagging influence in the background, was hardly there at all. Beck has also been promoted. There were a few pointers back to the previous two books too.This story is about a child serial killer. The killings are unpleasant and provoke vigilantes to start beating people up in case they are the killer. You get the feel of the fear which haunts the parents of children in the city. You taste the sanctimonious recriminations when another child is killed: how could anyone let their child out when they know a killer is on the prowl? What Sjöwall and Wahlöö portray is a city in the grip of fear. The killer doesn’t is going to kill and if the kids are kept away from the parks he’ll take them from your yards.There are a lot of other nice touches in this book. The influence of drugs on the youth – while Beck is searching for a man who sexually assaults children, a girl in her late teens offers to sell him photographs of herself naked. Beck assumes this is so she can buy drugs. There are also the people who turn up during the increasing police rides: the people who have no where else to sleep other than a park bench, the mentally ill who roam the streets, the victims outside the scope of the book: a woman found naked and tied up in a flat. These are images flashed across the page in the course of the book. Pictures of a waning society.If you haven’t read the Martin Beck books yet – start today.