Eight Nordic noir authors you should try

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noomirapace540It’s over 10 years since Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series made Scandinavian crime fiction a global phenomenon. Four films later – three made in Sweden and one in Hollywood – the deceased author has missed out on the acclaim his books have garnered. However, his achievements have given a platform to a whole range of authors from across the Nordic countries. In recent years Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum, Arnaldur Indridason and Henning Mankell have risen to glory alongside Larsson and sold millions of books. Interest stirred by Stieg Larsson’s writing has cause many readers to explore older Scandinavian works such as the Martin Beck series, written by the Swedes Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö in the 1970s and 80s, and Dane Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow.

Girlinthespidersweb540In August, Larsson’s legacy will be continued with The Girl in the Spider’s Web, written by Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz. We’ll be watching closely to see if it meets the Salander standard set in the original books. In the meantime, here’s a selection of Nordic authors who may not be on your radar, but are definitely worth checking out…

spring-tideCilla and Rolf Borjlind
This Swedish script-writing husband-and-wife duo grabbed our attention last year with their debut novel. Spring Tide opens with someone being buried up to their neck on a beach. As a young boy observes, he realises that the tide is coming in and that the woman is in grave danger. The brutal 1987 case goes solved, and young detective Olivia Rönning inherits it. When reviewing this in-depth book, Andre declared that the Bjorlinds are a force to watch for in crime fiction. Their second novel, Third Voice, follows on from Spring Tide and is grim, hard-hitting, Europe-wide and a wee bit James Bond-y. Read our interview with the authors here.
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voicesbeyond200Johan Theorin
As with Spring Tide, there’s a seasonal theme in Johan Theorin‘s Oland quartet. Set on the Swedish holiday island of Oland, it begins in the autumn with Echoes from the Dead, carries on into winter with The Darkest Room, and the latest is entitled The Quarry with the action taking place in the spring. The books cover the murder of a child, a mother and a grandfather, in that order, and there’s a dark introspective feel to the stories. Completing the quartet, Rörgast came out in Sweden in 2013 and as you might have guessed, it’s set in the summertime, when Oland is teaming with holidaymakers. A boy stumbles ashore telling of a ship full of dead and wounded sailors, and a mad axeman. Its English title will be The Voices Beyond and it’s due 2 July.
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catalystkilling200Hans Olav Lahlum
This Norwegian author writes Agatha Christie-style mysteries set in Oslo in the late 1960s and early 70s. Rookie detective Kolbjørn Kristiansen’s story begins in The Human Flies where a man is murdered in his apartment, with no apparent way for the culprit to have made his or her getaway. As Kristiansen digs deeper, helped by a wheelchair-bound young woman called Patricia, he uncovers links to wartime misdeeds – a fairly common theme in Scandinavian crime fiction. In the second book, it’s a case of 10 dinner guests and one murder victim. The third novel is due in August and is entitled The Catalyst Killing. Here Kristiansen investigates the death of a 1970s political activist.
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Antti Tuomainenhealer
Until Antti Tuomainen came along with The Healer, his near-future apocalyptic vision of Helsinki, Finland was barely on the Nordic noir map. Here, the city is no longer one of granite and ice. Now it’s rain, rain, rain off the Baltic thanks to climate change. Rats and pestilence reign and the hero of the story, Tepani, is searching for his wife. She’s been kidnapped by an environmental activist turned murderer called The Healer. Alongside Tepani, who is a poet, the police detective Jaatinen – battling the forces of disintegration – is a very interesting character. Tuomainen’s next translation will be Dark as My Heart, due out on 15 October. In it, a boy whose mother was murdered grows up and sets out to solve the case.
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hummingbirdKati Hiekkapelto
A few other Finnish authors have surfaced in English since Antti Tuomainen appeared in 2013, but Kati Hiekkapelto is one that truly stands out. Her first novel, The Hummingbird, begins the tale of Anna Fekete, who is Yugoslavian by birth but has ended up in working for the police in the northern reaches of Finland. It’s anything but an easy beginning for this rookie – a serial killer is gunning down joggers, plus she’s asked to keep an eye on a Kurdish family who might just be setting up an arranged marriage for their daughter. What we have here is a rather realistic police procedural and the good news is that another is on the way. Orenda Books is releasing Hiekkapelto’s second novel, The Defenceless, as an ebook on 1 July and as a paperback the following month. It promises drugs, gangs, murder, illegal immigrants and cold weather – all staples of Nordic noir.
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girlintheice200Søren and Lotte Hammer
Once again we have a writing duo, but this time they are Danish and they’re brother and sister, rather than spouses. When the Hammers‘ debut Svinehunde (Pig Dog) was translated into English as The Hanging, our reviewer RoughJustice declared it an excellent writing collaboration. It starts off with the hideous hanging of the title – five men, each disfigured, and each at the end of a noose, in the high school gymnasium. It’s a case for Detective Chief Superintendent Konrad Simonsen, whose chief suspect disappears almost immediately. When a rumour circulates that the victims were paedophiles, things get almost too ugly for a just solution to the case. The Hammers’ second book, Alting har sin pris (Everything Has its Price) will appear in English this summer as The Girl in the Ice. Keep an eye out for it if you like a story with shifting perspectives, that examines the nature of justice in a slightly different way.
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easymoney100Jens Lapidus
One of the common complaints about the label Nordic noir is that, well, most of the books that fall into the category don’t have the characteristics of noir at all. Swedish author Jens Lapidus, however, writes in a style much closer to what many readers think of as noir, albeit with a modern edge to it. His Stockholm series begins with Easy Money, a book that revolves around the cocaine trade and a massive drug deal that goes south. Like the first book, Never Screw Up features snappy interplay between a varied group of main characters, some of whom carry through from the first book. Life Deluxe completes the trio and came out in February. Some have bought these books expecting something similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There’s certainly no Salander here, and the books are dark, gritty and even a little filthy.
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Flatey EnigmaViktor Arnar Ingolfsson
With a population just over 300,000, Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, has the biggest glacier, and has a fantastic reputation in crime fiction thanks to Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson’s book The Flatey Enigma is rather different from most current Nordic noir novels – it weaves in tales dating back to the old Norse sagas. Set in the 1960s, The Flatey Enigma begins when young magistrate’s assistant Kjarten is dispatched to the island of Ketilsey to look into the death of a map maker. A note on the corpse points to an ancient, mythical manuscript called The Flatey Book. The 40 riddles of this document – said to be cursed – are interwoven with Kjarten’s story, which darkens as more bodies are found, some mutilated in a manner used by the Vikings centuries ago. Ingolfsson has had three further books translated into English, the standalone House of Evidence, and two featuring his detectives Birkir and Gunnar, entitled Sun on Fire and Daybreak.
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Well, we said it was eight authors but really it was 10 because we included two pairs. Which Scandinavian crime authors do you recommend? Please tell us about them in the comments below.


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