The Terrorists

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This article is about the Sjöwall and Wahlöö novel. For other uses, see Terrorist (disambiguation).
The Terrorists
The Terrorists (Swe).jpg
First Swedish edition
Author Sjöwall and Wahlöö
Original title Terroristerna
Country Sweden
Language Swedish
Series Martin Beck series
Publisher Norstedts Förlag
Publication date
Preceded by Cop Killer

The Terrorists (Swedish title: Terroristerna) is a 1975 novel by Sjöwall and Wahlöö; the final in their 10 part detective series revolving around Martin Beck and his team. The Terrorists was unfinished at the time of Per Wahlöö's death in June 1975; the last few chapters were completed by Maj Sjöwall alone.


The story opens with a trial where an eighteen-year-old woman is accused of a bank robbery she never intended to commit. Later, a pornographic film producer is found murdered at the home of his mistress. The main plot of the book involves Martin Beck leading a team of policemen to prevent a presumed terrorist attack on a highly unpopular American senator who is paying an official visit to Sweden. The attack is led by terrorist Reinhard Heydt, born by a Danish mother in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, part of the (fictitious) international terrorist organization Ulag which has already carried out several exceedingly brutal attacks successfully.

Beck is appointed head of the protection unit for the state visit and to plan the distance protection with four colleagues. They assume that the attack on a place will be that the convoy must pass, perpetrated presumably in the same pattern as in a previous assassination of Ulag in a Latin American country.

The four terrorists of Ulag manage to place the bomb. However, they are deceived by a delayed television coverage when triggering the ignition and Einar Ronn, one of four commissioners to Beck manages to clear the square shortly before the explosion.

The situation already seems to be under control, but shortly afterwards there is a shot, but the victim is not the US Senator, but the Swedish Prime Minister. The perpetrator is a completely alienated young woman who is already known from another storyline earlier in the novel

Two of the four terrorists can be taken by surprise and arrested by the police in their hiding place. The third, Levallois has fled. The police seals off all roads across national borders. As the fourth terrorist Heydt encounters the police, there is an exchange of fire in which leaves Heydt killed and a policeman injured. The story, and indeed the series, ends with the policemen able to go home to spend Christmas with their families, with the book ending with Beck, happily partnered with Rhea, his girlfriend, enjoying New Year festivities with Kollberg and Gun, Kollberg's wife. The book ends with the phrase, "X as in Marx."


Lennart Kollberg has resigned from the force and plays only a minor role in this book. His absence is mostly compensated by a more important role for Gunvald Larsson; likewise, Einar Rönn is also more prominently featured. In this last Sjöwall and Wahlöö book, Martin Beck finally admits to himself that he actually likes working with Larsson, although he misses Kollberg.

Theobald Braxén, a defense attorney, is introduced as a rather comical and sympathetic character who loves taking up apparently hopeless cases. His antagonist in court is Sten "Bulldozer" Olsson, first introduced in The Locked Room.

Film adaptation[edit]

In 1994 the novel was adapted for film under the title Stockholm Marathon, with its plot much altered. In the novel, the Swedish prime minister is murdered by the young woman who had been falsely accused of robbing a bank,[1] the young woman portrayed on the dust cover, and the police are largely unmoved:

"'I can't say I was one of his admirers,' said Content [a policeman]. 'But it does seem a bit pointless. They'll find another one just like him inside half an hour.'

Martin Beck nodded."[2]

This fictional event was deemed too politically sensitive because the 1986 assassination of Olof Palme—the actual prime minister when the novel was published—remained unsolved[citation needed]. The film was directed by Peter Keglevic and Gösta Ekman played the role as Martin Beck.


  1. ^ Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (1975), trans. Joan Tate, The Terrorists, 1978 reprint, New York: Vintage, Ch. 22, pp. 256-259, ISBN 0-394-72452-6.
  2. ^ Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (1975), trans. Joan Tate, The Terrorists, 1978 reprint, New York: Vintage, Ch. 24, p. 275, ISBN 0-394-72452-6.


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Cop Killer
"Martin Beck" timeline, part 10 of 10 Succeeded by