Nordic Noir Round-Up

Reviews

Christmas has been an excellent time to catch up on my Nordic Noir reading. We seem to have had a record year for submissions to the Petrona Award for Scandinavian crime fiction and, as well as old favourites, I’ve been trying to catch up new writers to see what they have to offer.

At 467 pages, The Anthill Murders is Hans Olav Lahlum’s longest book yet. Lahlum’s books are distinguished by his classic-crime style plots and the unusual relationship between criminal investigator Kolborn Kristiansen and Patricia, his intelligent, paralysed assistant. The subject matter is unusual for Lahlum. There is a serial killer at large attacking women on the streets on Norway, thereby giving the narrative a wider canvas than Lahlum’s previous books. Nevertheless, I found the plotting to be very tight and, also, without giving too much away, with a nod to Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders. This is probably Lahlum’s best book yet and is translated by Kari Dickson.

The White City by Karolina Ramqvist is the English language debut by a writer whose sparse and moving prose provided a much needed bite of reality over the Christmas period. It’s the story of a woman whose partner, involved in a series of shady dealings, has disappeared. Left with her baby, Dream, in a house that authorities are intending to take from her, Karin tries to track down her husband’s associates to claim his share of any remaining assets. It’s a very short but powerful read and an interesting insight into the partners of those involved in organised crime. I thought the book beautiful written and I hope more from Ramqvist is published here in the future. White City is translated by Saskia Vogel.

Hakan Nesser is one of my favourite writers and he never disappoints. The Darkest Day is the first novel in a new five-part series Inspector Barbarotti. In a small Swedish town, a family are gathering to celebrate two generations of birthdays. When two members of  the family go missing in apparently unconnected events, Barbarotti has to dig deep into family tensions to solve the crimes. The Darkest Day is an unusual book. It’s written in Nesser’s characteristic intelligent style but the resolutely Swedish setting and unusual plot lines are a departure. Although it took me a while to get into the story, it’s a clever and disturbing book. The translation is by Sarah Death.

Snare is the much anticipated English language debut by Icelandic writer Lilja Sigurdardottir. Sonia is a single mother blackmailed into smuggling drugs through Keflavik airport by associates threatening to harm her son if she doesn’t comply with their instructions. A customs  officer, Bragi, beings to notice the smart young woman travelling regularly through the airport. Snare is a taut thriller with strong characterisation and some frank sex scenes. It’s good to read a book with a realistic lesbian character. The translation is by Quentin Bates.

I’ve had Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito on my shelf for a while and I’m sorry I took so long to get around to reading it as it’s a compelling book. Maja Norberg is on trial for her part in a classroom killing which saw her boyfriend, best friend, teacher and classmates killed in a shooting massacre. We see the events leading up to both the killing and the trial through her eyes only, including her take on how her legal team handle her defence. Giolito effectively pulls the reader into the story with a single narrator and there are no easy answers as to motives behind the killings. An excellent translation by Rachel Willson-Broyles serves to highlight the occasional childishness of Maja’s justifications for her actions.

Have you read any good Scandinavian crime fiction over the festive period? I’d love to hear some of your recommendations.

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Nordic Noir Round-Up

Reviews

My Nordic reading continues for both The Petrona Award and for Granite Noir where I’ll be interviewing three Scandi authors: Kristina Ohlsson, Kati Hiekkapelto and Gunnar Staalesen.

9781509809486chameleon-peopleChameleon People is the fourth book in the series featuring detective Kolbjorn ‘K2’ Kristiansen and his trusted advisor Patricia. As usual Lahlum mixes Golden Age writing style and plot structure  with political intrigue, in this case Norway’s 1972 vote on whether to join the EEC. It’s a substantial book and I enjoyed the fact that K2 has to investigate the case largely by himself due to Patricia’s antipathy towards his girlfriend, Miriam, and her own love life. Lahlum’s style is distinctive and I suspect you’re either a fan of this writer or you’re not. I always look forward to each new novel. The translation is by Kari Dickson.

41mxo4kt01l-_sx322_bo1204203200_Kati Heikkapelto writes books of a consistently high quality and The Exiled is no exception. Her protagonist, Anna Fekete, has returned to the Serbian village of her birth for a holiday but, after her bag is snatched and the perpetrator found drowned, she is dragged into an investigation that throws up questions about her own father’s death decades earlier. Probably Hiekkapelto’s best book to date, The Exiled  looks with insight and compassion at the lot of displaced people migrating through Europe and depressingly familiar attitudes to Roma. The translation is by David Hackston.

unwantedKristina Ohlsson is a security police analyst in Sweden and her books clearly reflect her in-depth knowledge of  criminal investigations. Unwanted  was her first book, published in English translation in 2011. A child is abducted on the Stockholm underground and initially the girl’s family comes under suspicion. In the finest tradition of Swedish crime fiction, the case is solved through meticulous team work, in this case by Investigative Analyst Fredrik Bergman and detectives Peder Rydh and Alex Recht. The subject matter makes it a shocking read which is balanced by the sobriety of police investigation. The translation is by Sarah Death.

I’m in the middle of two other Scandi books. The Midwife by Katja Kettu (on my kindle) and Who Watcheth by Helen Tursten. Reviews of these and more Nordic Noir coming soon…