That was the third novel in the ten-book Martin Beck series. Here's how the second novel, The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, opens:
"The room was small and shabby. There were no curtains and the view outside consisted of a gray fire wall, a few rusty armatures and faded advertisement for margarine."
One need not read the passage that way, of course. (To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a greasy tub of bread lubricant is nothing more than that.) That the passage could function equally well as description and as social criticism, though, is one more sign of how good Sjöwall and Wahlöö were.
I was chuffed to find in Val McDermid's discussion of The Man Who Went Up in Smoke some of the same points raised here apropos The Man on the Balcony: that Beck was no maverick, rules-defying hero; that he functioned as part of a team; that he was no genius and possessed no extraordinary powers. McDermid also praises Sjöwall and Wahlöö's skill as plotters, a quality especially apparent to me in the first Beck novel, Roseanna.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011