Nordic Noir Round-Up

Karin Fossum has a unique voice although I don’t always share her bleak view of the world.  Her latest book The Whisperer, translated by Kari Dickson, focuses largely on the interplay between Inspector Konrad Sejer and a woman whose crime is only revealed to the reader towards the end of the book.  It’s a fascinating and creepy read. Is Ragna being persecuted and, if so, who would care enough to focus their attention on this elderly nondescript woman? I’m never entirely sure about Fossum’s endings and it’s true in this case too but I love her writing and am always excited to read her next book.

Jorn Lier Horst is a former Petrona winner and is one of the most consistent writers around. His Wisting books are elevated by excellent characterisation and strong plots. The Katharina Code is one of his best. An age-old crime where a set of numbers were left on a dining room table is reopened when police re-focus on the woman’s husband and his possible involvement in an earlier, apparently unconnected, case. Wisting, who has befriended Martin Haugen over the years, has harboured doubts about the man’s innocence and he becomes a sometimes unwilling participant in the surveillance operation. Horst has written a well-plotted thriller and it was great to escape into the Norwegian landscape. The translation is by Anne Bruce.

It’s odd to note that Hakan Nesser has never appeared on a Petrona shortlist as he’s one of my favourite writers. I love the Van Veeteren series and am gradually getting acquainted with his new protagonist Barbarotti. At 595 pages, The Root of Evil is a huge book and the plot is deceptively simple: a group of friends in the Swedish town of Kymlinge are being murdered and it looks to be connected to an event that happened in Brittany in 2002. Nothing is straightforward with Nesser though and we’re drawn into a sophisticated tale with some wonderful characters. Ultimately the length of the book just about works and it’s my favourite Nesser for a long while. The translation is by Sarah Death.

Review: Jorn Lier Horst – Ordeal

9781910124758This is my second blog tour in a week which is unusual for me as I don’t normally take part in them. They’re wonderful things but I never seem to be able to read to a particular deadline. However, I definitely wanted to take part in this one as I’m a huge fan of Lier Horst’s writing. I think I’ve reviewed all this English translations on this blog and Ordeal is a worthy addition to the series.

Taxi driver Jens Hummel disappeared six months previously and Larvik detective William Wisting has been criticised for failing to solve the case. Now, evidence suggests Hummel was killed by Danny Brodin who is already in prison for murder. Meanwhile, Wisting’s daughter, Line, helps her friend, Sophie, open a safe inside her grandfather’s house and discovers an old gun and piles of cash. Sophie, already resentful of dead grandfather, tries to cover up the discovery dragging Line into her deception.

Lier Horst’s books are always an excellent mix of police procedural and character study which give them a special place in Scandinavian crime fiction. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, the highlight of his writing is the relationship between William Wisting and his daughter. Line is now eight months pregnant following the brief fling she had in the previous novel, The Caveman. Line deliberately gives a misleading statement yet Wisting is sensitive to her predicament in staying loyal to her friend. It’s the portrayal of a loving father aware of his daughter’s idiosyncrasies. The town of Larvik is the perfect setting for Lier Horst’s plots: mixing provincial attitudes alongside encroaching twenty-first century problems of increased drugs and violent crime.

Hugely popular in Scandinavia, Lier Horst deserves a much wider audience in the UK and, hopefully, Ordeal will bring him new English-reading fans.