Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's All Scandinavian to Me

During the Viking Age, Scandinavians descended upon the known world with a fury and ingenuity that have echoed down through the ages. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, they are at it again, though this time their influence and contributions are accepted a bit more voluntarily than they were a thousand years ago. I'm referring to the Scandinavian crime novels that are being translated into English at an increasing pace.

The foremost of these in the public eye, of course, is Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Each of these novels are extremely popular and have holding lists, but, just like a good crime novel that has more to the story than first meets the eye, there are more Scandinavian mystery writers out there to be explored. Hopefully you can check these novels out while you are waiting for, after you read, or simply in lieu of, Stieg Larsson's books:

(Please note: the following, with the exception of the standalone Smilla's Sense of Snow, are all the first in a series of novels.)

Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum
Inspector Konrad Sejer and his assistant Jacob Skarre investigate the connection between the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of a little girl and the discovery of a murdered teen in a small town outside of Oslo. This moody police procedural focuses on the psychological impact of those affected by the crime.

Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
Reykjavík, Iceland, is an insular city with almost no violent crime, making a murder with no apparent motive tough to solve. Reykjavík police detective Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson follows a trail that leads to more murder, long-kept secrets, and a forensic lab that used to house research organs.

Faceless Killers
by Henning Mankell
While investigating a double murder of an elderly couple, Policeman Kurt Wallander battles against xenophobia and his own personal turmoil in an effort to avoid touching off a powder-keg of racial violence. (Though this is technically the first of the series, a set of short stories, the Pyramid, depicts Wallander's life before this novel).

Smilla's Sense of Snow
by Peter Høeg
A careful melding of literary fiction and a mystery thriller, Smilla's Sense of Snow is unsurprisingly about a half Danish, half Greenlandian woman named Smilla Jaspersen who is an expert in the various forms of ice: this is the only predictable aspect of this novel. Smilla becomes obsessed about finding the truth behind the death of a young friend of hers, leading her to a desolate ice-covered island of the coast of Greenland and to a secret that is much larger than she anticipated.

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