Sweden’s Stieg Larsson captured the imagination of crime readers around the world with his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and since then both Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo have become global hits.
Here, Garrick Webster, founder of CrimeFictionLover.com, picks out some of the next great talents to hit the Nordic Noir corner of the crime bookshelf…
The rising stars of Scandinavian crime fiction
The most hotly anticipated cold climate crime novel of 2016 has got to be The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund. You’ll get a lot of book for your money when the translation arrives in April because publisher Harvill Secker has combined the three novels of the original Swedish trilogy into one 750-page whopper.
Written by duo Jerker Eriksson and Håkan Axlander Sundquist, it feels a bit like a Nesbo novel, with well developed characters and a deeply troubling series of crimes. Indeed, the child murders in deals with cut deep into the psyche of main character, Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg.
Icelandic newcomer Ragnar Jonasson’s debut Snowblind left critics dazed when it came out last year. Jonasson’s got an interesting background. He translated Agatha Christie into Icelandic as a teenager, and he’s taken what he learned of Golden Age plotting and applied it in a more contemporary Icelandic setting.
Ari Thor Arason is the rookie cop in a cut-off community when a brutal murders takes place. His second novel, Nightblind, has just been released and it takes place about five years after Snowblind. It’s recommended you start at the beginning with his first novel – it’s actually the better of the two.
In Sweden, this husband and wife writing team aren’t exactly rising stars. They’ve worked on TV shows like Beck, Wallander and Arne Dahl, and two of their books have been printed in English – Spring Tide and The Third Voice.
In both, there’s a sense of the innovative and unusual in their ideas and their villains certainly have unique ways of dispatching the victims. For instance, Spring Tide begins with a man buried up to his neck on a beach, and the tide is coming in… Black Dawn is the third in the Olivia Ronning and Tom Stilton series, with a case featuring child murders and a racist dimension. Let’s hope it’s translated into English soon.
This Finnish author, with his background as a poet, is one of the finest writers not just in Nordic noir but in crime fiction full-stop.
His second novel to appear in English, Dark as My Heart, rolls out the dark angst by mixing a cold case mystery with what’s almost a Greek tragedy. Aleksi Kivi has had a huge hole in his live ever since his mother disappeared 20 years ago. He’s studied, done national service, and now he wants to know what happened to her. So he starts by getting as close as he can to Henrik Saarinen, the rich financier with a dark temper, who dated his mother all those years ago…
As with the Borjlinds in Sweden, Norway’s Jorn Lier Horst is anything but a rising star in Scandinavia. In fact, his book The Hunting Dogs won the region’s prestigious Glass Key award in 2013.
In Horst’s books, understated cop William Wisting investigates crimes with what seems like a cool detachment, but really he keeps his emotions capped because he aims to do the best job possible in the name of justice. He’s a lot like Wallander in that respect. Horst knows exactly how investigations play out, having come face to face with many a murderer during his 18 years as a chief investigator. Try The Cavemen for a brilliant police procedural read.
For more snowpile mysteries, try Anton Svensson’s The Father. Based on the true story of a gang of bank robbers, it begins his Made in Sweden series. Johan Theorin is another underrated Swede, and his Oland series brings you four seasons of murder on the island, the closest thing the country has to a holiday riviera. Kati Hiekkapelto is one of Finland’s hottest crime translations right now – try The Hummingbird or The Defenceless. We’ve not mentioned Denmark, but Soren and Lotte Hammer are a much underrated brother and sister team writing some of the darkest Nordic noir. Watch for The Vanished in March.