Review: Barry Forshaw – Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV

nordic noirBarry Forshaw is the UK’s expert on Scandinavian crime fiction. His excellent Death in a Cold Climate is a book that I often dip into if I need information about a Scandinavian author that I’m unfamiliar with. Now he has produced Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV, a brief but very entertaining overview of not only Nordic crime novels but also of many of the Scandinavian TV and films that are now appearing on our screens.

The book opens with a look at the beginnings of Scandinavian crime fiction, and the influence of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and other early writers on the genre. The following chapters then assess the two great writers Henning Mankell and Steig Larsson and how they led the way for many of their contemporaries and began the craze for Nordic Noir. There is plenty of food for thought here. Camilla Lackberg, for example, has a significant following but has never quite reached the popularity of say, Jo Nesbo. Forshaw comes up with some convincing explanations for this, not least the intimate setting of Fjallbacka which, although harks back to Christie’s St Mary’s Mead, doesn’t have the international feel of Nesbo’s books. Nesbo himself dominates the Norway chapter, although there are also plenty of other writers discussed, including the excellent Anne Holt and Thomas Enger.

The chapters on the other Nordic countries Iceland, Finland and Denmark were particularly interesting as I’m less familiar with some of the writers and you get a strong sense of both the personality of the authors and the essence of their works. The latter part of the book assesses the impact of  Nordic Noir in TV and Film and identifies some emerging writers to look out for which will provide a useful point of reference in the future.

For a short book (around 160 pages) this packs a lot in and shows Forshaw’s knowledge of the subject. His interviews with many of the authors form the basis of the book and there are some amusing anecdotes and asides, including an interview with Henning Mankell who spots mice in an upmarket hotel in central London. But you also get a sense of the author’s preferences and his views on the merits of different writers. So there is plenty to delight fans of Nordic Noir and also those who want an informative but succinct introduction to the genre.

23 thoughts on “Review: Barry Forshaw – Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – I couldn’t agree more about Forshaw’s knowledge and good writing. I will definitely have to get hold of this as it sounds like an excellent resource.


  2. I tried to buy this book yesterday but not available in the US yet. I was convinced sight unseen. So I am glad to see from your review that it will be a good buy when it is available. I have Death in a Cold Climate on my Kindle and am reading it at a leisurely pace. Also have Forshaw’s Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, which is almost falling apart, I read it so much. I am a sucker for any mystery reference books that I can afford.


  3. I just read parts of Death in a Cold Climate last week so Forshaw has been on my mind. On the TV front, I’m dismayed that there’s an American remake of The Bridge. I hope it’s not as boring as the American version of The Killing.


  4. The Little Reader Library

    This sounds like a really good introduction to Scandi crime and would no doubt add hundreds more books to my wishlist! Thanks for the review.


  5. Oh, Sarah,
    I’m so interested in consulting both of Forshaw’s books, but unfortunately Nordic Noir will not be available for sale here until September, and Death in a Cold Climate is not available in any library, though I could purchase it for $28 from Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Ouch!

    I may investigate ordering from The Book Depository just to see if the cost is less. I’m sad I have to count the pennies these days, because I love literary reference books and Forshaw seems to be filling a huge hole for English readers of Scandinavian crime.

    Thanks so much for writing about these books!


    1. That’s great news Judith. You won’t regret your purchases I promise! I haven’t really heard of The Book Depository but I’ve just looked it up. We are all counting the pennies these days…..


  6. Pingback: The Best of April’s Reading | crimepieces

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