Nordic Noir round-up: Helen Tursten, Gunnar Staalesen & Katja Kettu

Apologies for the lack of reviews on Crimepieces in the last two weeks. As well as promoting  the publication of the paperback of A Deadly Thaw, I’ve also been proofreading the next book in the series, A Patient Fury,  which is out in September. This hasn’t stopped me reading, however, and I’m finally catching up with my reviews.

First up is a summary of the Nordic books I’ve read.

51l2hlts9l-_sy344_bo1204203200_Helene Tursten is a Swedish writer who isn’t as well known in the UK as she deserves to be. Her novels, featuring detective Irene Huss, are well plotted police procedurals that, in the finest Scandi tradition, also draw readers into the personal lives of the characters.

In her latest book,  Who Watchetha man is stalking his women victims and sending them gifts before strangling them. An early victim who survived the attacks remembers his unpleasant smell but nothing else. Huss is also being persecuted by a cyber stalker who is unhappy with Huss’s involvement in an earlier case. It’s been a while since I read Tursten and I think she’s one of the best Nordic writers around. The prurient nature of the killings is never overdone and Who Watcheth is enhanced by a finale that isn’t overly dramatic. The  translation is by Marlaine Delargy.

whererosesneverdie300Another favourite writer of mine is Gunnar Staalesen. His latest book, Where Roses Never Diefeatures the resurrection of an investigation into the disappearance of a missing girl and the social dynamics of a small housing estate in the 1970s. Staalesen’s detective, Varg Veum, is in a sorry state, drinking heavily and forced to take on cases he would normally reject.

As we expect from Staalesen, social issues are combined with a fine murder plot but the multi layers of the deception that’s revealed makes Where Roses Never Die his best book yet. The translation is by Don Bartlett.

51gues2nt2l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Finally, I read in January an unusual and thought-provoking novel by a Finnish writer, Katja Kettu. In The Midwife, a woman unflatteringly named Weird-Eye by the small community where she delivers babies meets Johannes, a war photographer working for the SS. She takes a job as a nurse in a nearby prison camp to be near him but gets drawn into the mechanics of the surroundings as the war’s end draws near.

It’s a difficult book to review as I was completely captivated by the language of the story which must have been a joy to translate. The prose is earthy and brutal, describing a period in time where survival is a result of stamina, circumstance and finding a place in the community and landscape. I knew little of the stationing of German troops in northern Finland and the Lapp setting is woven into the narrative. The timeline makes for some challenging reading with the occasional inclusion of superfluous official documents but the story of Weird Eye is unique and moving. The excellent translation is by David Hackston.


13 thoughts on “Nordic Noir round-up: Helen Tursten, Gunnar Staalesen & Katja Kettu

  1. Kathy P.

    Hello Sarah. They all sound like exceptionally good reads, and loving authors like Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo and others, they should fit in nicely with books I like to read.
    I can’t wait for A Patient Fury to be released, and will be (along with many, many others I’m sure) at the top of the queue waiting to buy a copy.


  2. Dave Gibson

    I’m in total agreement with Kathy P’s sentiments. From the original Martin Beck, through Wallander, Hole, et al, I have become a lover of the Scand. stream of crime/mystery. i thank you. once again, for broadening my horizons with new authors. Good luck with your writing endeavours and keep up the great work on this wonderful site. Cheers from Down Under, Dave.


  3. Margot Kinberg

    Great roundup, Sarah, for which thanks. So glad there’s a new Tursten out; I do really enjoy her Irene Huss series. The others look good, too!


  4. Margaret Pender

    Sarah, thank you for more great recommendations – and I’ve also enjoyed your own books v much and am thrilled to hear there’s a new one coming soon.

    I think The Midwife was also a movie – in Finnish – with subtitles that I saw at a Scandinavian film festival here in Canberra, Australia, last year.

    Best wishes



    1. Hi Maggie – thanks for the kind words about my books. It’s so lovely to hear feedback on them. I’d have loved to have seen the film of The Midwife. I’ll look to see if I can find a copy of the DVD if there is one.


  5. tracybham

    Sarah, glad to hear that your third book is moving towards publication. I agree that the Irene Huss books by Tursten deserve to be better known, although I have only read two of them so far. They don’t seem to be that well known in the US either.


  6. Pingback: A short interlude | crimepieces

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