Crime in Scandinavia

Like many Americans, A Reader's Respite has been completely enthralled with now-deceased author Steig Larsson's Millennium Series.  We first read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on a trip to Brussels last summer and immediately became obsessed with protagonist Lisbeth Salander.  A perfect combination of mystery, thriller and family-saga, Larsson brought this little known sub-genre of Scandinavian crime novels to the forefront of world attention.

We are furiously gobbling up the second book in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire in anticipation for the third (and final) book of the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, due for publication in the U.S. on May 25th.  (And yes, A Reader's Respite has this one on pre-order already!)  

If you haven't read the series, we highly recommend it even if you aren't normally a fan of the genre.

But Steig Larsson isn't the only Scandinavian mystery/crime writer with a big reputation.  On a recent 24-hour stay in Fargo, North Dakota, A Reader's Respite discovered that this sub-genre is chock-full of talented authors and riveting novels.  The bookstore we visited, as a matter of fact, had entire shelves dedicated to these books -- not surprising, given that the local population is largely of Scandinavian descent.

Among some of the gems we discovered (and consequently crammed in our suitcase and toted home):

This international political crime/thriller from Danish author Leif Davidsen features a middle-aged Danish college professor who gets caught up in international intrigue when his sister is accused of being a Stasi agent in Copenhagen.  Davidsen's novels often feature protagonists who are anonymous, every-day citizens who get caught up in international events beyond their control.  While not all of his novels are available translated into English, a good handful are and this talented writer is certainly worth a read.

Norwegian author Karin Fossum tends to write on a more local Scandinavian scale and her most successful books are the Inspector Sejer series.   Her novel Don't Look Back is the second in the series and it concerns a missing child from a small Scandinavian village and the improbable circumstances surrounding the child's murder that occurs in a small community where everyone knows everyone else.  Fossum began her career as a poet, but it's her crime/thriller novels that have won her numerous literary awards.

Swedish author Asa Larsson (no relation to's a fairly common Scandinavian surname) writes a fabulous police-procedural-crime-thriller series featuring protagonist Rebecka Martinsson, a tax attorney who gets drawn into local crime cases.  Sun Storm (originally published in the UK under the title The Savage Alter) is the first in the series and introduces the reader to Martinsson, whose past is intertwined with a murder investigation and leads her down some unexpected and taut paths filled with intrigue and mystery.  It won the Swedish award for Best First Crime Novel and is well worth a read....translator Marlaine Delargy has been especially singled out for praise for her translation of this novel into English.

There are numerous other, talented Scandinavian crime writers out there....more and more of whom are being translated into English for us language-challenged readers.  Take advantage of it and enjoy some of them.  A Reader's Respite will definitely be picking up more new-to-us Scandinavian authors on our next trip to our favorite Fargo bookstore (which, coincidentally, will be next month!).

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