Scandi Crime Fiction Round-Up

I’ve been on a big reading binge recently mainly due to long distance travel to Bouchercon, the US crime fiction convention. I’m going to do a series of round-ups of the next week or so as I have read some excellent books that I want to share with you.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m one of the judges for the Petrona Award for translated Scandinavian crime fiction. It’s usually around this time of year that I start to increase my Nordic Noir consumption to make sure I get my reading done in time for the judging in March.

51KZmDXMg9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s The Undesired is a standalone novel that looks at the historic abuse in a juvenile detention centre. A single father, Odinn is in charge of the investigation following the unexplained death of a colleague. He finds a disturbing link to an accident that killed his former wife and is forced to look behind the official files to discover the reason for the children’s deaths. Yrsa is a master of ramping up the tension in her books and here is no exception. I particularly liked the claustrophobic nature of the setting and the gradual revealing of the horror at the heart of the killings.

Stallo by Stefan Spjut is a fantastical tale that chronicles the abduction of children my stallomysterious creatures. Susso runs a website dedicated to sightings of these beings and when she receives news of a creature that has been spotted outside an old woman’s house she installs a camera to see if she can finally confirm their existence. The book is a meaty tale that will delight fans of writers such as Justin Cronin. It’s a mixture of crime  and fantasy and I thought the translation to be excellent.

defenceless200Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Hummingbird was shortlisted for last year’s Petrona Award. Her follow-up The Defenceless is also a powerful read tackling illegal immigration and the role of gang members in exacerbating the desperation of migrant workers. Hiekkapelto is unflinching in her chilling descriptions and, once more, it is her police investigator protagonist, Anna Fekete, who dominates the narrative.

Thanks to Hodder, Faber and Orenda Books for my review copies.

 

Iceland Noir 2014 Round-Up

My last post gave an overview of the panels from the first full day of Iceland Noir. As I didn’t manage to make all of the discussions on Saturday I thought I’d use this post to round up the highlights of the rest of the event.

1959521_10152439616361625_7891572099963381108_nOne panel that I did manage to make was my own at 9am. Moderated by Quentin Bates it also featured debut authors David Swatling, originally from the US and now living in Amsterdam and Icelander, Sverrir Berg Steinarsson. We started off by reading extracts from our prose and then talking about how our books came into being. An interesting motif was that all three of us used personal experiences in our past to shape the course of our narratives. ‘What if this had happened to us?’, I suspect, is a common approach used by new writers but I wonder the extent to which it is jettisoned in later books. It was wonderful to appear on a panel in a capacity as an author and thanks to everyone who got up at the crack of dawn to make the event. I really appreciate everyone’s support.

The rest of the day’s panels that I attended were excellent and I particularly enjoyed Making it spooky – supernatural in crime fiction. I’m a big fan of ghost stores and the panelists James Oswald, Johan Theorin, Michael Sears and Alexandra Sokoloff did a good job of making their books sound suitably creepy. I hope to catch up reading all of these novelists soon.

For lunch, some of us fans of the Icelandic TV series The Night Shift were given a treat when its director, 10372141_10152440305741625_7631086047442752839_nRagnar Bragason, joined us for lunch along with actress and writer Sólveig Pálsdóttir who appears in series two. It was wonderful to meet the creator of such an excellent TV series and he was later interviewed by Andy Lawrence whose write-up of the discussion will shortly appear on his website, Euro But Not Trash. The series is set in a petrol station on the outskirts of Reykjavik and some of us fans later managed a trip to the location in an homage to the series.

icepicksmallSaturday evening involved dinner at the excellent Iðnó restaurant. The IcePick Award was given to The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker for the best crime novel translated into Icelandic. The book has divided critics. I enjoyed it and think it must have been a difficult choice to make in a very strong shortlist. More details of the award can be found at Mrs Peabody Investigates.

On Sunday, a group of us took a coach with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir to locations featuDSC_4280red in her novels, in particular, My Soul to Take. It was a fascinating day, good to get out of Reykjavik and we paid an unexpected visit to a lava tube cave. The picture to the right contains lots of well-known writers. See if you can spot anyone.

So, the end of an excellent event. Thanks to Quentin Bates, Ragnar Jónasson, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Lilja Sigurðardóttir for all their had work to make it such a successful event. Next year will be Shetland Noir, followed by a return to Iceland in 2016. I can hardly wait.