21 January 2013

Scandinavian Mysteries

Winter has definitely arrived here in the northern hemisphere, and I'm on another "reading about cold places" kick and figured I'd share.  Whether you read Stieg Larsson and want more like that, or are just looking for a new author to explore, all of these are fantastic choices (though the English translations are lagging several books behind the original language releases).  Obviously, "Scandinavian mystery" is no more a complete genre than "American mystery" or "British mystery" - these also run the gamut from police procedurals to more amateur detectives, but it's a handy catch-all at the moment.  My ASCII coding knowledge is also getting quite a workout - I'm giving up on eth and thorn though, so apologies to Icelanders.  Anyway, how about I start with:

Camilla Läckberg

Since our detective here is an actual detective, there's some of the feel of a police procedural to these, but the small-town Swedish setting also gives it more of a cozy vibe.  So far, the first three of her books have been published in the US - The Ice Princess, The Preacher, and The Stonecutter - and there are at least six more.  Of all the mysteries I've read (and I've been a devoted whodunit fan since my great-aunt first handed me a Nancy Drew when I was about 6), these take the prize for being most like a jigsaw puzzle - all the pieces are right there in front of you, but arranging them takes time and then, all of sudden, once you've got the edges done the picture goes snap! snap! snap! into place and you're left to marvel at its construction.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Over to Iceland for the next series, where lawyer Thora (I'm pretty sure that should start with a thorn, but all of them have been anglicized in the text so I'm not going to try to figure it out) Gudmundsdottir manages to get herself mixed up in some pretty odd situations that make for great reading.  This was my go-to series last July during a ghastly heatwave - somehow, reading about all that snow and cold actually made it seem cooler.  The first in the series (pictured) introduces Thora, her two children, her surly secretary Bella, and a German fellow who becomes much more interesting than his initial appearance might suggest, in addition to a very colourful bunch of suspects in a particularly bizarre killing.  Currently there are three available; the fourth in the series is due out in English soon (on my birthday, actually, which makes me happy).

Jussi Adler-Olsen

Let's head back east to Denmark for the next two entries; Carl Mørck is a detective saddled with guilt over an operation gone bad which left one fellow policeman dead and another badly wounded.  In the aftermath, he is made head of the newly created Department Q, which is tasked with checking out cold cases.  Actually, he's not just the head, he's pretty much the entire staff, except for his surprisingly useful cleaning man, Assad.  Their investigation of a missing-presumed-dead politician yields surprising results in the first of the series (pictured), while the second focuses on a seemingly closed case which turns out to be much more convoluted than anyone could have thought.  I believe there are at least two more waiting to be translated, and I for one wish they'd hurry up!

Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis

Nina Borg is one of those people who just can't seem to say no to a friend - a nurse by training, she is involved with underground aid groups while seemingly neglecting her responsibilities to her own family.  Everything goes completely pear-shaped when she picks up a suitcase as a favour to an old friend and finds a small boy inside it - alive.  Twists and turns abound, as well as varying viewpoints (including that of the boy's mother, who is desperately trying to locate him), which some may find confusing but I quite like.  (The Lithuanian is what messed with my head, that and the Hungarian in the second book.)  Invisible Murder finds Nina getting into a radioactive mess that causes some non-nuclear fallout in her personal life...
Jo Nesbø

Okay Mari, Norway's turn! ;-)  I think what I like best about this guy is that he writes not only hardcore thrillers featuring a likeable, if flawed, policeman by the name of Harry Hole, but also a series for kids called (I kid you not) Dr. Proctor's Fart Powder.  This Harry reminds me of another one (no, not Potter - Bosch {vide Michael Connolly}), and I admit I was cracking up in the first chapter seeing parallels to things our own dear Norwegian goes on about.  Like Dragon Tattoo, the first one in this series (well, the first one translated, anyway - I think there might have been one or two others in the series before The Redbreast) delves into the darker side of the northern countries' fairly recent history, notably Nazism during WWII which has carried over into the present day.

So I was planning on putting more on here, but these should whet your appetite adequately enough - if not, Mankell, Wahloo, Persson, Nesser, Holt, Tursten and Indridason might be worthwhile to Google, eh? ;-)


Shaharizan Perez said...

Leanne, this is a great list! I have only heard of Stieg Larsson (sp?). Will Google all of the others. :D

Natasha said...

Great recommendations!
I keep hearing about Scandinavian Mysteries, but have only read two books - The Last Rituals and The Laughing Policeman- both of which I loved. Time to revisit. Think I'll start with Camilla Läckberg- seems my kind of author

ViolaNut said...

Oh, they've been out there for a while, it's just that in the wake of Stieg Larssen it became obvious that there was a big market for it and POOF! Translations up the wazoo. :-) I have more on my shelves I haven't gotten to yet, but at the moment Läckberg and Sigurdardottir are my favourites.

Natasha said...

Sjöwall and Wahlöö are good too- Martin Beck is very real, if you know what I mean. Flawed, smart and real.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

The Keeper of Lost Causes looks very interesting!!!

Cruella Collett said...

Yay, Scandi-power! ;)