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Best crime novel in translation of 2023 shortlist

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Crime Fiction Lover Awards 2023 Shortlisted logo

When we first started Crime Fiction Lover in 2011, Scandinavian crime fiction was all the rage and we dived in reading and celebrating not just Nordic noir but translated mysteries in general. It’s the perfect way to explore the world and expose yourself to different voices and perspectives – to widen your horizons without leaving the comfort of your chair. Unless, of course, you’re a voracious reader when on holidays as well!

Here we continue that tradition by celebrating the top crime novels in translation, as nominated by our readers, for 2023. It’s a shortlist that has surprised us. For the last few years, we’ve been told by those ‘in the know’ that the market for Nordic noir is saturated, that it’s on the wane, that the ideas have dried up, that there are no new authors there worth discovering… and so on. Our readers paint a different picture – the shortlist contains two Danish novels, a Swedish one and one from Iceland. Plus, Japanese and Spanish crime fiction is represented.

If you want to find out more about these awards and the six shortlists, read this article. Otherwise, here’s an in-depth look at the novels on the crime in translation shortlist. At the bottom of this piece is a link to our voting form. Our editorial team will also be selecting an Editor’s Choice award from this shortlist.

Allons-y…

Murder at the Residence by Stella Blómkvist, translated by Quentin Bates

Murder at the Residence by Stella Blómkvist front cover Icelandic crime fiction

The identity of Icelandic author Stella Blómkvist is a mystery in itself and this novel brings their legal thriller series to the English language with vigour. Reading a murder mystery so steeped in society’s dirty secrets probably shouldn’t be so much fun but Murder at the Residence is entertainment on steroids. It’s a venomous condemnation of misogyny, abuse, corruption, male privilege and much more – all done with wit and charm, as well as intelligence. Both the author and the main character are called Stella Blómkvist, who in the book is a celebrity lawyer at the heart, tackling several cases including the disappearance of a sex worker no one else cares about except her escort friend. It’s real pleasure to discover and it will leave you wanting to fight the good fight too. See our full review here.
Try it now on Amazon or Bookshop.org

Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado, translated by Nicholas Caistor

Red Queen by Juan Gomez-Jurado front cover

There’s a fascinating concept behind Red Queen, the first in a bestselling trilogy by Spanish author Juan Gómez-Jurardo. Half-British, half-Spanish, Antonia Scott has a mind so sharp she can sometimes solve crimes simply by looking at the crime scene photos. She sees and interprets every detail. This rare ability has her working for a secret international crime-solving cell called The Red Queen Project. However, she refuses to work while her husband lies in a coma. After a boy goes missing in Bilbao it’s up to disgraced gay police inspector Jon Gutierrez to entice Antonia back to work. This is just the beginning of a clever, page-turning mystery like nothing you’ve read before. We haven’t reviewed this novel, but readers nominated it en masse.
Try it now on Amazon or Bookshop.org

Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen, translated by Megan E Turney

Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen front cover

Jenny Lund Madsen helped created Follow the Money, one of our favourite Nordic noir TV series, so we were keen to see her first novel when it arrived. Thirty Days of Darkness is remarkably assured, complex and playful, with a light helping metafiction which the author uses to explore the age old argument between genre and literary fiction. Lund does so by making her main character an unsuccessful literary author who is goaded into producing a crime novel in 30 days by an extremely successful but not very talented crime writer. She chooses to take up the challenge in a remote, typically Nordic noir setting where crime is in the air as she writes her crime story. This is fresh and funny, it makes some serious points along the way, and you can read Sonja van der Westhuizen’s review here.
Try it on Amazon or Bookshop.org

The Collector by Anne Mette Hancock, translated by Tara Chase

The Collector by Anne Mette Hancock front cover

Investigative journalist Heloise Kaldan and police detective Erik Scháfer return to action after a boy goes missing and his jacket is found with blood on it near the citadel in Copenhagen. It’s a complex case, which serves up many angles – could Lucas have been abducted by a paedophile, someone mentally unstable, or is there another explanation? Equally complex are the lives of the investigators here, with Danish author Anne Mette Hancock drawing us into their families and their struggles alongside the mystery itself. Moody and atmospheric, The Collector is full of shadows and misdirection, and received a five-star review from Sonja van der Westhuizen in our review last November.
Try it now on Amazon or Bookshop.org

The Mill House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji, translated by Ho Ling Wong

The Mill House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji front cover

Golden Age crime fiction was a major influence in Japan, where writers adapted and refined the form to create something uniquely Japanese, and author Yukito Ayatsuji follows in that tradition. Central to the story is Fujinuma Kiichi, the son of a famous artist who lives as a recluse and wears a mask due to cover injuries suffered during a car accident. Every year, he invites a group of acquaintances to his home, the remote Mill House, but this time things go very wrong… Firstly, someone is murdered and secondly, a famous painting is stolen from the property. It’s up to Kiyoshi Shimada to solve the mystery in a novel that’s charming yet creepy and full of the quirky propriety you’d expect from a classic Japanese crime story.
Try it now on Amazon or Bookshop.org

The Sins of our Fathers by Åsa Larsson, translated by Frank Perry

The Sins of our Fathers by Asa Larsson front cover

When a body turns up in a freezer the whole town and it’s history come under the microscope in Northern Sweden, here in the final novel of Åsa Larsson’s popular Rebecka Martinsson series. It is, however, a finale of extraordinary literary merit, completing a Nordic saga covering some 60 years, populated by some of the finest characters drawn in any genre of fiction. Prosecutor Martinsson and her team of colleagues, together with the police officers, are superbly realised and the relationships here are mature and engrossing. As well as an intriguing murder mystery with long reaching tentacles this novel explores grief, longing, corruption, jealousy and love, all against the backdrop of a remote mining community literally that is literally falling into the mine which brought its prosperity in the first place. Old school Nordic noir at its finest.
Try it now on Amazon or Bookshop.org

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