Ten book Tuesday...Nordic Crime Fiction

Do you want to read one of the fastest growing genres of today? Do you want to lose yourself in a revenge fantasy or meet a gloomy new fictional detective with a plethora of health and personal issues? Why not try some Nordic crime fiction?  Not for the faint hearted!
There are many good Nordic crime authors but here is a selection of titles by popular authors.

The Pyramid   Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell is best known for his Kurt Wallander character. The Pyramid is a collection of 5 short stories which gives the reader more insight into the personal life of Kurt Wallander. Kurt first appeared in The Faceless Killers when he was a senior police officer just turned forty with his life in a mess.  His wife had left him, his father barely tolerated him, he ate badly and drank alone at night. We see him in the early years doing long hours on the beat whilst trying to solve a murder off duty, witness the beginnings of his fragile relationship with Mona, the woman he has his heart set on marrying and learn the reasons behind his difficulties with his father.  Some readers may have already be familiar with  Kurt Wallander from the series of telemovies.

The Bat   Jo Nesbo
This book introduces the character of Harry Hole, an alcoholic, disorganised but brilliant detective. It is clear, however that the Harry Hole character was developed in earlier books that have not been translated into English. In this book Harry is sent to Australia to investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a Norwegian woman who was briefly famous as a children's TV presenter. Harry is told bluntly by the Australian police chief that he is there as an observer but he soon becomes involved in the case where a serial killer is targeting fair haired girls. In the first half of the book we get a lot of Harry's background that shapes his character in later books. Harry at first tries to remain an observer, only making helpful comments but as events develop Harry's demons re-emerge and we begin to see why Australia  haunts Harry throughout subsequent books.

Missing    Karin Alvtegen
Missing is told through the perspective of the suspect. Sybilla is a homeless woman who has fallen out with her family some time ago. She lives by her wits. Sybilla persuades a wealthy man to buy her dinner and pay for her room in a hotel for the night. When the 2 part company the man ends up being murdered.  Then when murderer leaves a signed confession in Sybilla's name she is forces to go on the run to prove her innocence. Missing is a good psychological thriller that isn't just about the murder.  It is also about what goes on in the head of Sybilla Forsenstrom.  Sybilla is forced to let down her guard and trust someone so that she can prove her innocence.

Ice Princess   Camilla Lackberg
Erica Falck returns to her small, remote hometown after her parents' death only to encounter another tragedy, the suicide of her best friend Alex. Erica finds Alex's body suspended in a bathtub of frozen water, her wrists slashed. The big question is why a beautiful, successful woman take her own life? Teaming up with police detective Patrik Hedstrom, Erica begins to uncover shocking events from Alex's childhood.  As one horrifying fact after another comes to light, Erica and Patrik's curiosity becomes an obsession in more ways that one. Before long it becomes clear that a deadly secret is at stake and that there is someone who will stop at nothing to protect it.

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow   Peter Hoeg
This cult classic divides opinions.
Smilla is a dark, silent woman who knows a lot about snow. She has a great fondness for Isaiah, a young boy whom life has also wounded. When Isaiah dies after falling several stories from the snow-covered roof of a warehouse and his death is declared an accident, Smilla is forced out of her isolation to ask questions. Why had he climbed the scaffolding to play on the warehouse roof when he was terrified of heights? Isaiah was running when he went over the edge. What begins as a thriller develops into a game of espionage, a game of hide and seek on a ship in the North Atlantic and finally ends on a glacier covered island off the coast of Greenland. The plot may not always be believable but the mix of science, mathematics and philosophy along with the description of the harsh Greenland way of life has enough to interest most readers.

Roseanna: a Martin Beck mystery   Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
This is a police procedural written decades ago when there were no mobile phones or DNA testing and computers were in their infancy. Martin Beck is a policemen who is refreshingly free of serious personal issues, aside from some marital issues. He's not a drunk, he's not a rogue, and though he works too much, he is reasonably balanced.  The story is fairly straightforward, the body of a young woman is found in a canal with no clues to who she is and where and by whom she was killed. There is a breakthrough when Interpol identifies the woman as an American tourist who was taking a boat trip in Southern Sweden and that she was killed by a fellow passenger.  Beck and his team work the case over the course of months and slowly piece together a solution. No surprise twists or red herrings.  The authors use solid      character development and a realistic depiction of the hard and banal work involved with solving a case.  This book is the first in the Martin Beck series.

The hypnotist Lars Kepler
You may have seen the recent movie of this book. A family is brutally murdered in Stockholm.  There is only one survivor 15 year old Joseph. Joseph is seriously injured in hospital and seemingly unresponsive to questions that may help solve the crime. Detective Inspector Joona Linna is put in charge of the case and in a desperate attempt to solve the crime before Joseph and an older sister who had moved away from home some time earlier are hurt, enlists the help of retired hypnotist Eria Maria Bark.  Bark is very reluctant to return to his profession due to a series of accusations of wrong doings by his patients. When Bark does finally reach the boy the shocking discovery he makes is much worse that he could have imagined.  When Barks own family is threatened Erik is forced to revisit his own dark past to uncover the truth

In the darkness   Karin Fossum
This is the first Inspector Sejer novel by Norweigian write Karin Fossum. Inspector Sejer is a bit different to many of the other Nordic crime fiction detectives. He is polite and doesn’t have a multitude of personal problems and bad habits. His sole vice is a daily single hand-rolled cigarette and whiskey he allows himself at the end of the day as he thinks over a case, his faithful dog at his feet. He spends time off with his daughter and her adopted son from Somalia, but never stops thinking about his cases. Sejer believes in justice and has a need to understand the criminal mind. The story begins with Eva and her six-year-old daughter Emma discovers the body of a man in the river one night. Eva does not call the police but the body is reported by another person. Sejer befriends the widow and young son of the dead man, who has been missing for six months. Unable to progress, but now knowing he has a murder case on his hands, he decides to look into the only other unnatural death that  has been reported to the police in the past year. Sejer’s methodical investigation gradually finds small clues. Whether or not the two cases are linked becomes gradually clear to the reader, but not without some surprises along the way. The book is in two halves. The first half tells the story of the investigation and of Eva’ life from the point of discovery of the man’s body. The second is from Eva’s perspective of previous events depicting a woman struggling to make ends meet without compromising her artistic integrity, and retain her sanity, in the wake of a divorce and some very stressful life-events.

Last rituals   Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Last Rituals is an 'academic mystery'. The crime takes place in a university department – a history student is murdered and the solution depends on the uncovering and understanding of the victim's research interwoven with religion and witchcraft in medieval Europe. When the book opens, history student Harald Guntlieb is found dead in a small room at the university. Murder is suspected. Halldor a fellow-student who works part-time at the hospital morgue is arrested.  Harald comes from a wealthy family, who are not satisfied that Halldor is the killer. Their lawyer, Matthew, begins to investigate on their behalf, but cannot progress very far because he doesn't speak Icelandic and does not understand the country's legal and police procedures. Matthew, the dead man's mother and a local lawyer       named Thora join together to solve the crime. Last Rituals is a straightforward telling of a macabre tale with intertwining stories, secrets and quite a list of suspects. As Thora and Matthew gradually put together all the threads of these interlocking stories, which all need to be understood before the circumstances of Harald's death and it immediate aftermath are clear.

The Princess of Burundi   Kjell Eriksson
If you like female detectives this author may be the one for you. The Princess of Burundi is the first Inspector Ann Lindell book. Lindell and her team of detectives battle the brutal Swedish winter, bloody murders, complex crimes and unsavoury inhabitants of their cosmopolitan district Uppsala. When the mutilated body of tropical fish collector John Jonsson is discovered in Uppsala the police are baffled.This former troublemaker may have made a few enemies in the past but who would want to kill him in such a brutal way? Inspector Ann Lindell takes on the case and is convinced that the killer has been swiftly identified, but then doubts begin to creep in. What if she’s wrong? As increasingly sinister events begin to unfold, and Jonsson’s family gets further involved, Lindell and her team must unravel the complex                                     clues and stop the killer before it’s too late.