Nordic Noir Round-Up

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…

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The Best of January’s Reading

January is always a productive time for crime fiction. Along with new publications, we also get advance review copies of Janus-Vaticannovels not hitting the bookshop shelves until spring and sometimes the summer. I reviewed a mixture of these, from Peter May’s recently published Entry Island to Louise Welsh’s A Lovely Way to Burn which is out in March. I also caught up on some of my reading for the The Petrona Award for translated Scandinavian crime fiction. Of everything I read, it was Welsh’s book that made the strongest impression. I’m a fan of apocalyptic fiction anyway but the quality of Welsh’s writing made this a compelling read.

The six books I reviewed for Crimepieces were:

1. The Second Deadly Sin by Asa Larsson

2. A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh

3. The Disappeared by Kristina Ohlsson

4. Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo

5. Entry Island by Peter May

6. Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason

Review: Kristina Ohlsson – The Disappeared

THE_DISAPPEARED_1373318561PAnother huge tome of a book, The Disappeared runs to nearly 600 pages so it’s not surprising that it took me around a week to read. When a book is that long you inevitably look to see if there is any padding that could have been left out. The Disappeared’s length is mainly down to the author’s style of writing which, although initially frustrating, made the book a substantial and complex read.

When the body of a woman is found buried in woodland, newly bereaved Alex Recht from the Stockholm police believes it to be that of the missing student, Rebecca Trolle. But the grave holds further secrets when it’s discovered that other bodies have been buried there, with the deaths having taken place years apart. As the team uncover the dead girl’s past, and her link to an elderly children’s author, their personal lives become entangled in the investigation leading to an internal inquiry.

This is the first book I’ve read by Ohlsson and I am now tempted to read her earlier novels. There is a clear backstory to all the principal police protagonists which is hinted at the text but never allowed to dominate it. In many respects, The Disappeared has all the hallmarks of a quintessential Swedish crime novel. The landscape forms an important part of the narrative, in the position of the dead bodies and the role it plays in some of the violent scenes. We also get a mix in the narrative of the police investigation and the characters’ personal lives. There’s a sense in the book of lives on the cusp of change which I’m sure will strike a chord with many readers.

The investigation is both shocking and slightly depressing. The idea of snuff films has been written about before in crime fiction although I think the author did well to include male murder victims to balance some of the extreme imagery. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, there’s only so much violence against women that I can stomach.

For me, this was an excellent introduction to a writer that I hadn’t read before. Other readers often comment on the fact that they don’t like to start books mid-series. I did so here; it was fine and, if anything, made me inclined to read the earlier books.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy. The translation was by Marlaine Delargy.