Recommended Reads: Scandinavian Crime
The success of the Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy shined a light on Scandinavian crime. Translations of existing titles and newly imported authors rose in popularity and continue to be read by American audiences today. Here are 18 of the most notable Scandinavian authors who’ve made an impact stateside. Many of them have books that have not yet been translated and made available in English. Dates for the novels cited below are, as near as I have been able to determine, for their original publication in their original language.
The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel (2013) – This Danish author has been published in 18 countries and is best known for her Detective Inspector Louise Rick series in Copenhagen. An unidentified woman’s body found in the woods leads Louise on an unsettling investigation that uncovers hidden crimes connected to abandoned children at a state mental institution.
The Fourth Man by K.O. Dahl (2007) – Four of Norwegian author Kjell Ola Dahl’s eleven novels have been translated into English. Frank Frølich and Inspector Gunnarstranda are detectives in Oslo. In The Fourth Man, Frølich saves the life of Elizabeth Faremo, a dark-haired beauty who will involve him in a murderin which he’ll become the prime suspect.
The Woman from Bratislava by Leif Davidsen (2009) – A former journalist, this Danish author turned to writing political thrillers full-time in 1999. Davidsen’s most recent book available in English begins with a NATO fighter plane shot down over Yugoslavia. A Danish university lecturer Teddy Pedersen becomes involved in the cloak-and dagger-world when his sister arrested in Copenhagen and a newly discovered half-sister reveals dark family secrets.
Room No. 10 by Åke Edwardson (2013) – Author of the Chief Inspector Erik Winter series set in Gothenburg, Sweden. In his latest case, Erik called to a hotel room where a woman is found hanging. But Erik remembers that this is the same location where, twenty years earlier, another woman disappeared, and he suspects their deaths are connected.
Black Lies, Red Blood by Kjell Eriksson (2014) – Policewoman Ann Lindell meets a journalist, Anders Brant. Striking up a relationship with the man seems promising until he disappears and his phone number is found in the possession of a murdered homeless man. This Swedish author has written more than a dozen crime novels, but only half of them have been translated into English.
The Drowned Boy by Karin Fossum (2013) – One of the most popular Scandinavian authors, her Inspector Sejer series set in Norway have been translated into 25 languages. In the latest translated tale, a young boy has drowned in his family’s pool, but the family’s story doesn’t add up. The autopsy reveals the boy’s lungs were full of soap. As the story of how the boy died keeps changing, Sejer and Inspector Skarre pursue the truth.
Blind Goddess by Anne Holt (1993) – Author Holt has worked at the Oslo Police Department, practiced law, and briefly served as Minister of Justice. Her Hanne Wilhelmsen mysteries have made her one of the most successful crime novelists in Norway. In Blind Goddess, Wilhelmsen and her partner Håkon Sand uncover a drug ring involving lawyers and a trail of corruption leading to the highest levels of government. It all begins with a drug dealer battered to death and a Dutchman covered in blood. This is the first mystery featuring Detective Hanne Wilhelmsen.
Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason (2012) – Step back in time for a prequel plumbing the backstory of Icelandic Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson. Patrolman Erlendur investigates the death of a tramp he’d met and befriended and learns the man may be connected to the case of a missing woman and a seemingly amateurish criminal network.
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnette Friis (2011) –Red Cross nurse Nina Borg is given a key to a locker. In the locker is a suitcase. In the suitcase is a three-year-old boy. When Nina discovers that the woman who gave her the key is dead, she treks across Denmark to uncover the truth and stay alive. 1st in the series.
The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler (2009) –Inspector Joona Linna demands to investigate a triple homicide in a remote part of Sweden. A boy left for dead is the only witness, and a hypnotist may be the only way to unlock what he saw.
The Second Deadly Sin by Åsa Larsson (2011) – Swedish attorney Rebecka Martinsson Investigates the case of a woman found murdered in her bed. The woman’s grandson is missing. But what connection might the case have to the discovery of a human hand in a rampaging bear’s stomach?
The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell (2013) – Swedish Inspector Kurt Wallander first appeared on the literary scene in 1991, translated into English six year later. In his 10th case, Wallander takes it upon himself to investigate a retired high-ranking naval officer’s disappearance, which may relate to Cold War espionage activities.
Nemesis by Jo Nesbø (2008) – A man robs an Oslo bank and shoots the cashier. As the bank robbies continue, Police Detective Harry Hole finds himself the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend. Hole will travel the streets of Oslo and race to Brazil in order to clear his name and solve both cases. 4th in the series.
The Inspector and Silence by Håkan Nesser (1997) – Inspector Van Veeteren inflitrates a religious sect to solve a string of brutal murders. This is Van Veeteren’s 5th case. To date there are 10 books in this Swedish series.
Someone to Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (2009) – In the 5th book of the Icelandic series, featuring Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, a young man has been accused of burning down his assisted living facility. But the deaths in this case may be connected to a hit-and-run fatality, but how?
The Beige Man by Helene Tursten (2007) – In Göteborg, Sweden, a high-speed chase ends in death. Inspector Irene Huss discovers the hit-and-run victim was a retired police officer and the owner of the car that killed him. The abandoned car is found near the body of a young girl, who may have been involved in a sex trafficking ring.
The Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner (2009) – Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa’s lonely Christmas Eve routine is derailed by an unexpected arrival and two murders, one of which involved a colleague on the police force. Termed a “snow-noir” tale in the overview on Barnes & Noble.
Murder on the Thirty-First Floor by Per Wahlöö (1966) – In this standalone title by the late Swedish author, Chief Inspector Jensen investigates a bomb threat and the mysterious department on the thirty-first floor “not permitted to be evacuated.” A dystopian tale set in an unnamed country in a future where an entire country’s media is controlled by one publisher. Together with his wife, Maj Sjöwall, Wahlöö wrote the bestselling Martin Beck series, which includes the Edgar award-winning The Laughing Policeman.
And here’s one more title that might be a great way to sample some of these authors:
A Darker Shade of Sweden edited by John-Henri Holmberg (2014) – Sample some of Sweden’s “most distinguished and best-loved crime writers” in this compilation of stories about the dark side of Sweden. Seventeen stories are presented, and include tales by Stieg Larsson, Åke Edwardson, Henning Mankell, Håkan Nesser, and more. The collection also contains an introduction by John-Henri Holmberg who co-authored the 2011 book, Secrets of the Tattooed Girl, about the Millennium Trilogy written by the late Stieg Larsson.
Comment on your favorite Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, and Icelandic mysteries.