In this special category celebrate the best of the blossoming crop of high quality crime writing coming from the Scandinavian countries.
Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn't leave an address. She doesn't answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously. Veum's investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal... Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Big Sister reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world's foremost thriller writers.
Vilhelm Thygesen is a prominent left-wing lawyer and former cop, with a ponytail that “makes him look like an old hippie”, and a world-weary persona. When a frozen body is discovered in the garden of his large property, Vilhelm is naturally implicated, not least because he has a somewhat fraught relationship with the police. While the identity of the woman is being tracked down, a biker once represented by Vilhelm is killed in an accident, and which leads investigators to explore possible connections between the frozen woman and a notorious biker gang. This is a perfectly-paced police procedural, with plenty of cleverly connected sub-plots and shifting points of view that keep the pages turning. ~ Joanne Owen
A chilling, stimulating, intensely dark tale set in Norway. A young woman is found dead in woodland on the edge of Oslo Fjord, with her body arranged in a strange, unsettling backdrop. The policing team in charge of the investigation are lost, until help comes from an unlikely source. This is the second in the ‘Munch and Kruger’ series which started with ‘I’m Travelling Alone’. Munch and Kruger are a fascinating pairing, work Kruger’s reason for living, while Munch should really take time out. In short sharp chapters, characters were slowly introduced, ruffling my senses, keeping me in suspense, there were times when I wanted to shout a warning, to hold out a restraining arm. Samuel Bjork creates a jagged zig-zagging edge of understanding, there isn't a convenient jigsaw shaped hole waiting for your thoughts. ‘The Owl Always Hunts at Night’ is a cunning, dramatically sinister tale, it looks as though this is a series with staying power. ~ Liz Robinson
This is a gripping, biting crime mystery set in northern Iceland, and the fifth novel in the ‘Dark Iceland’ series. Do start at the beginning of the series with the ‘Snowblind’, as these books deserve to be, and should be read in order. Ari Thor investigates the death of a young woman found at the bottom of cliffs, is it murder, or an accident? The chillingly simple prologue shocks, creating echoes that remain throughout the book. Ragnar Jonasson introduces new characters slowly, allowing a quiet unease to settle over the pages as they enter your thoughts. The Icelandic christmas traditions hover, creating moments of warmth and love that highlight the grim nature of the tale. Translator Quentin Bates continues to ensure the words flow from the page, with no interruption or separation from the storyline. ‘Whiteout’ confirms Jonasson’s series as a must read, it is compelling, thrilling, and just so, so entertaining. Liz Robinson
Ooh, this is a different offering from Antti Tuomainen, and I absolutely loved it! Short it may be, but boy does this novel pack a belter of a punch, and the blows just keep on being delivered. 37 year old Jaakko learns that he is dying, he has been poisoned and sets out to discover who his murderer is, before he actually succumbs to the poison. At my first smirk I almost felt guilty, should I be laughing… further occasions of raised eyebrows and blurts of laughter escaped, so I relaxed and really settled in to this fabulously entertaining read. Antti Tuomainen has hit just the right notes, and I can picture Jaakko and the other characters lighting up the big screen. Devilishly dark humour abounds in ‘The Man Who Died’ paired with an absolutely cracking storyline, earning a tremendous thumbs up from me. ~ Liz Robinson
A mesmerising, unconventional, and fiercely intense read set in Iceland. Sonja finds herself in an impossible position, firmly caught in a smuggling snare can she escape the clutches of the gang who hold her life in their hands? The moment I started to read I was captivated, the writing feels different, fresh and vibrant, yet with a darkly powerful tone that grips thoughts and feelings. Lilja Siguroardottir has created a punchy storyline with such realistic characters I found myself fully immersed in the tale, yet I was on full alert, ready to react. Translator Quentin Bates set me down in Iceland and I remained there for the entirety. Full of secrets and lies, ‘Snare’ kept me on edge, questioning trust and self-awareness, ensuring a enthralling, fascinating read, and I highly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson
A sophisticated and elegantly entertaining shard-sharp slice of Nordic noir that will be surely be devoured by aficionados of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell. Vilhelm Thygesen is a prominent left-wing lawyer and former cop, with a ponytail that “makes him look like an old hippie”, and a world-weary persona. When a frozen body is discovered in the garden of his large property, Vilhelm is naturally implicated, not least because he has a somewhat fraught relationship with the police. While the identity of the woman is being tracked down, a biker once represented by Vilhelm is killed in an accident, and which leads investigators to explore possible connections between the frozen woman and a notorious biker gang. This is a perfectly-paced police procedural, with plenty of cleverly connected sub-plots and shifting points of view that keep the pages turning. ~ Joanne Owen BUY DIRECT FROM THE PUBLISHER
A ferociously gripping read from a Norwegian writing legend. Private investigator Varg Veum is in serious trouble, child pornography is found on his computer, from prison he starts to pull all the pieces together in a quest to discover who has planted evidence and why they want to take him down. This novel is set after ‘Where Roses Never Die’, yet delves back in time to when Varg was in a pit of pain. Gunnar Staalesen allowed me to have my suspicions, yet kept my mind on high alert as the past cases are explored. This is at times an uncomfortable read, yet fascinating, thrilling, and action packed too. Varg sits on the edge of official, and dangles his legs over lawful, yet his morality is clear to see and feel. ‘Wolves in the Dark’ is another profound, dark, yet enjoyably readable tale from Staalesen and I can thoroughly recommend joining this series. ~ Liz Robinson Click here to read a Q&A with Gunnar Staalesen about this book.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Maxim Jakubowski's May 2017 Book of the Month. May 2017 Debut of the Month. A truly stunning debut both powerful and disturbing by a UK-based French author, set in London, the West Coast of Sweden and, worryingly, during WW2 in the Buchenwald concentration camp. The use of such a harrowing location and era might in other less-skillful hands smack of exploitation, but here it just anchors an already scary serial killer investigation in reality with a series of heart-jumping twists you never see coming. When similar mutilations appear in the murder of a female Swedish jewellery designer in Falkenberg and the discovery of young children's bodies on Hampstead Heath, Scotland Yard call on the services of seconded Canadian profiler Emily Roy, and true crime author Alexis Castells who knew the initial victim and feels compelled to become involved. The contrasting couple's investigation alongside both police forces slowly uncovers layers of horror and surprises. The first in a series, winner of several awards in its native France, this heralds the English language debut of a major new talent and will have people talking (DISCLAIMER: I am the translator of this book, which I was pleased to bring to the attention of its British publishers). ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... As the start to a new series, this is a truly menacing, striking and powerful read. Profiler Emily Roy, and Alexis Castells a true crime writer, join forces as mutilated bodies are discovered in Sweden and London. The tale begins in 2013, as a body is hidden and thoughts are revealed in chilling focus. Roy and Castells make a fascinating duo, each adding their own distinct style. Short chapters provoke interest, and set feelings whirling, before moving swiftly on. Buchenwald concentration camp squats with loathing intensity in 1944, breaking into the middle of the story, just how do the atrocities committed there link to the investigation? Maxim Jakobowski ensures a seamless translation as Johana Gustawsson releases evil behind a stark and deceptively simple writing style. ‘Block 46’ left me shuddering as it reached a dramatic conclusion, and yet I couldn’t turn away, oh what a clever and very shocking tale this is! ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... As sometimes happens, Block 46 was recommended to me by a number of authors and reviewers, whose opinion I trust, and I was very excited to meet with Johana’s French publisher at the London Book Fair last year. My eldest son read it in the original French, as did an outside reader, and both come back with stars in their eyes, and a You MUST publish this book message! Maxim Jakubowski was already a fan, and we hired him to translate Block 46. Six months on and I still hadn’t read it. I flew through the first draft of the translation in less than a day, and knew exactly why everyone was raving – exactly why this book has won so many awards in Johana’s native France. This is a stunning piece of crime fiction, with a plot that twists and turns and leaves the reader both breathless and gasping for more. At its heart is a study of the nature of evil that is eye-opening and also terrifying, and the two main protagonists are fresh, never stereotypical, and hugely engaging. I am thrilled and honoured to be publishing such a fabulous series, with its sweeping plot and timelines. In all honesty, it is probably the best Noir to come out of France for a decade, by a young writer with a massive future ahead of her. ~ Karen Sullivan, Orenda Books Click here to read a Q&A with the author.
May 2017 Book of the Month. A chilling, stimulating, intensely dark tale set in Norway. A young woman is found dead in woodland on the edge of Oslo Fjord, with her body arranged in a strange, unsettling backdrop. The policing team in charge of the investigation are lost, until help comes from an unlikely source. This is the second in the ‘Munch and Kruger’ series which started with ‘I’m Travelling Alone’. Munch and Kruger are a fascinating pairing, work Kruger’s reason for living, while Munch should really take time out. In short sharp chapters, characters were slowly introduced, ruffling my senses, keeping me in suspense, there were times when I wanted to shout a warning, to hold out a restraining arm. Samuel Bjork creates a jagged zig-zagging edge of understanding, there isn't a convenient jigsaw shaped hole waiting for your thoughts. ‘The Owl Always Hunts at Night’ is a cunning, dramatically sinister tale, it looks as though this is a series with staying power. ~ Liz Robinson
An assured, chilling, and intense piece of crime fiction set in Oslo. Detectives Frolich and Gunnarstranda investigate the murder of a woman who has been found scalded and wrapped in plastic, Gunnarstranda gets help from an unexpected source, while things get very personal for Frolich. This is an established policing team, however my first outing, and while it took me a little while to get to know them, ‘Faithless’ can easily be read without prior knowledge of the series. Kgell Ola Dahl establishes a strong, sparse structure, yet Norway flowed from page and into my mind. A sinister edge hovers over the characters, ready to slice and cut, while the complexity of the investigation sent my mind into overdrive. Information is slowly revealed, creating tension, pushing anticipation forwards. The plot runs a jagged course, twisting through story, all the while building to a dramatic conclusion. If you love Nordic Noir, then look no further, ‘Faithless’ is a fiercely powerful and convincing read. ~ Liz Robinson
If you thought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the epitome of Nordic noir's savage darkness, think again. Graphic, violent and weaving a thread of evil with the dexterity of a malevolent spider, this Swedish trilogy by a collaborative duo of writers, ups the ante yet another notch with pedophilia, mutilation, human trafficking and a veritable catalogue of deviance unveiled following the discovery of a mummified child's corpse by the police and the ensuing investigation by troubled detective Jeanette Kihlberg, the scion of a family of cops through the generations. Once you set the manifold horrors aside (if you can), the investigation proves entrancing, with a complex plot swerving in all directions that make this a psychological thriller of the highest order, with positive female characters to the fore. Might not be to the liking of lovers of cozy crime, but otherwise will have you truly gripped.
An artful and intriguing story set in a remote Icelandic landscape. As a highly contagious fever forces his village into quarantine, Ari Thor begins to investigate an ice cold case. He enlists the help of reporter Isrun from ‘Blackout’ and a further crime begins to coil around them. This is the fourth in the ‘Dark Iceland’ series, I feel that it is best to start with ‘Snowblind’ in order to understand Ari, and as importantly, the area he works in. Iceland sits centre stage, the island is brought to sharp, vivid life. Ragnar Jonasson excels in running several investigations in one story, separate strands waiting for links and connections. Foreboding lies in wait and throws darts of disquiet, and my mind scuttled to and fro as I collected information and joined in the investigation. History and time are essential to the storyline and echo with striking vibrancy, ensuring ‘Rupture’ just throbs with dramatic intensity and is a riveting read. ~ Liz Robinson A Piece of Passion from the Publisher... In a rather strange turn of events, I met Ragnar Jonasson playing football for England, at the annual England v Scotland football match at Bloody Scotland crime festival, and he told me about his Dark Iceland series. Ragnar appeared on a panel, and I watched readers queue up for books that did not yet exist in English. I learned that Ragnar had translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and that the setting of the Dark Iceland series was Siglufjörður, a tiny town at the top of Iceland, bound on one side by the sea and on the other by mountains, only accessible by a single mountain tunnel that was often closed by snowstorms and avalanches. The perfect locked-room mystery. So, almost sight unseen, I bought the series, and Snowblind was published seven months later, beautifully translated by Quentin Bates. It went almost instantly to number one on the kindle charts, and a star was born! From there, we haven’t looked back, and every title that has followed (Nightblind and Blackout) has sold in the tens of thousands and attracted a legion of fans and fabulous reviews. Rupture is a brilliant addition to the series, dark, chilling, beautifully written, atmospheric and full of masterful plotting and unforgettable characters. We follow police officer Ari Thor, as he tries to solve a cold case, with the town in quarantine and a stalker on the lose. I can’t speak highly enough of Ragnar and this series. The books are a gorgeous combination of Golden Age crime and Nordic Noir and there is, quite simply, nothing like them. I am honoured to publish Ragnar! ~ Karen Sullivan, Orenda Books Click here to read a Q&A with Ragnar Jonasson about this book.
Retired Chief of the National Crime Police and Swedish Security Service Lars Martin Johansson has just suffered a stroke. He is paying the price for a life of excess - stress, good food and fine wine. With his dangerously high blood pressure, his heart could fail at the slightest excitement. In the hospital, a chance encounter with a neurologist provides an important piece of information about a 25-year-old murder investigation and alerts Lars Martin Johansson's irrepressible police instincts. The period for prosecution expired just weeks earlier and that isn't the only limitation. Lars Martin Johansson is determined to solve the atrocious crime - from his deathbed.
A compelling, assured and gutsy crime thriller set in Serbia among the refugee crisis. Anna returns to the borders of Hungary and Serbia for a holiday, there she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous investigation with chilling links to her own family. Kati Hiekkapelto allows information to wait, just out of sight, and then releases it to swirl, linger and provoke. Each new surprise ensured my opinion of Anna altered as I read, my attention was ensnared further, and I became completely absorbed by this tension filled read. With red herrings slipping through the story line, and an absolutely fascinating location, ‘The Exiled’ is a gripping and stimulating read. ~ Liz Robinson
A startling, intense and clever tale of destructive, chilling corruption. 30 year old journalist Janne tells his own story after he is offered information about an environmental catastrophe, another similarly deadly tale is revealed at the same time, and the two stories unfold side by side. I read the first few pages, full of impact, setting the scene, yet spinning and tumbling my thoughts, twice. Antti Toumainen writes with a wonderful blend of beautiful descriptive detailing and chilling sparse intensity, he leaves you guessing, thinking, on high alert. As I read I felt a storm gathering, a force, a reckoning started to hurtle towards me, and in the middle of this the importance of family sits centre stage. The violence is prominent, yet there is a subtle thought provoking energy that twists through this tale, and ensures that ‘The Mine’ is an absolutely cracking read. ~ Liz Robinson Click here to read a Q&A with this author.
A violent robbery. A hit-and-run. A brutal murder. In the stifling heat of an August morning on the beautiful Swedish island of Gotland, terror shatters the calm.
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Some books are claustrophobic as they isolate their characters in a constricted setting, but Norwegian crime author Ravatn achieves the curious exploit of making a novel mostly set in the vast open air of the fjords claustrophobic as its two sole characters (aside from just a couple of outside 'extras') stew, fight, love and so much more in a cabin by a lake under the wide open sky. Allis, a journalist in disgrace, seeks a new life as a cook, gardener and helper with Sigurd, a taciturn older man who owns a cabin in a remote region of Norway, and whose wife is mysteriously absent. The psychological cat and mouse game is gripping as they clash, repel and attract and questions soon are raised about their previous lives and how past events will affect their future together or apart. Intense, lapidary, dream-like and streaked with anxiety, this is not a comfortable book, with not always likeable obsessive characters, but it proves rewarding as an investigation into the blank darkness of lost souls. ~ Maxim Jakubowski One of our Books of the Year 2016. The Lovereading view... A subtle, quietly sinister tale, where the tension slowly creeps and coils around the edge of your understanding. Allis removes herself from her previous life to become a housekeeper for Sigurd. On the edge of a fjord in a lonely existence, can Allis make sense of her life and reveal the secrets that cloak the house? Agnes Ravatn hasn't used quotation marks, this creates an intimacy with the words, yet they somehow echo with desolate intensity. The translation by Rosie Hedger is perfectly and completely in tune with the story. Gradually, slowly and almost silently, information is revealed, which kept me on the edge of my seat. ‘The Bird Tribunal’ unsettles, agitates and unnerves before a fierce concentrated rush of drama filled pages… and yet at the end, I detected a whisper of uncertainty floating in my mind, which actually left me feeling very satisfied indeed with this enthralling read. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher...I had my eye on The Bird Tribunal for quite some time before I was in a position to acquire rights to publish in English, and I watched it win countless awards in its native Norway and go on to be made into a stage play. When a reader’s report and then the fabulous translation came in, I was not disappointed. It is one of the most captivating, tense, dramatic thrillers I have read in years. With only two characters and a Rebecca-esque plotline, it is beautifully written, with the isolated Norwegian fjord and the gardens of the solitary house situated there exquisitely described, and the sense of foreboding, the slow building of tension, the trickle of insights into the characters and the secrets they are hiding, make it an exceptional read. It’s already won an English PEN Translation Award, and been chosen for WHSmith’s Fresh Talent for the Autumn, and I could not be prouder to publish a book that takes Nordic Noir to fabulous new heights and marks the arrival of a major new talent in the genre. ~ Karen Sullivan, Publisher, Orenda Books Click here to read a Q&A with this author.
This truly is a crime novel to tamper with your thoughts and send them skittering off in all directions. ‘Blackout’ takes place in June 2010, following on from ‘Snowblind’, the first in the ‘Dark Iceland’ series. A fascinating murder investigation by police and a reporter takes place during the time the ash cloud from a volcanic eruption affected the country and air travel, ensuring a heightened sense of foreboding and tension. A number of main characters feature, including self reliant Ari Thor Arason, who polices the most northerly village in Iceland, and Isrun, a TV news reporter. I have to admit it did take me a little time to get to know all of the characters, however I do believe ‘Blackout’ works well as a standalone novel. Ragnar Jonasson writes with a bitingly sparse, to the point style, and Quentin Bates has translated his words skilfully, ensuring the story flows. The first part of the novel sews confusion and encourages questions, it almost feels as though two or three jigsaws of information have been thrown into the air to land in one jumbled pile. With several menacing stories, creeping and melding into one, ‘Blackout’ is a wonderfully gripping and gritty novel.
A truly tenacious and back to basics Nordic crime novel featuring private investigator Varg Veum. Staalesen has been writing about Veum since 1977, however this is my first foray into the series, and found it could easily be read as a standalone. 25 years after a three year old disappears in mysterious circumstances, the mother hires Veum to take one last look at the case. As Veum begins his painstaking detective work, he begins to dig deeper and further than the police have been before, and starts to uncover some disturbing links to another crime. Staalesen writes with a clipped, matter of fact style, the sharp delivery in the first person really sets Veum centre stage. There are an awful lot of characters to get to grips with and it’s worth getting them straight in your mind, right at the beginning of the novel. With plenty of surprises in store and an intriguing case, ‘Where Roses Never Die’ sets your mind working overtime and is a gripping read. A 'Piece of Passion from the Publisher... 'Gunnar Staalesen is one of the fathers of Nordic Noir and the creator of the unforgettable private investigator Varg Veum. Only six of the 20-odd titles in the series have been translated into English to date, and I am honoured to have the opportunity to publish the remainder, beautifully translated by Don Bartlett. Known as the ‘Norwegian Chandler’, Staalesen is a master of his craft, creating tightly plotted, page-turning and extraordinarily atmospheric thrillers that tackle social issues in the finest tradition of Nordic Noir. As Sarah Ward says in Crime Pieces, ‘Staalesen’s greatest strength is the quality of his writing. The incidental asides and observations are wonderful, and elevate the books from a straightforward murder investigation into something more substantial.’ I could not agree more. Where Roses Never Die is Staalesen’s best book to date, and I could not put it down until I had devoured every last word, and then re-read the stunning, completely unexpected denouement, just in case my eyes had deceived me. ~ Karen Sullivan, Publisher, Orenda Books
Annika Bengtzon has spent her career telling stories that need to be heard. As a journalist, she's always been at the front line of criminal reporting, alongside the investigating officers. And now a court case that she's been reporting on - the savage murder of a homeless man - has begun to attract a lot of attention.
Siglufjordur: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thor Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman - shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thor to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all. Dark, chilling and complex, Nightblind is an extraordinary thriller from an undeniable new talent.
It sometimes feels as if everyone in Iceland is writing crime novels but the first appearance of Ragnar Jonasson in English translation (itself a fluid adaptation by British mystery writer Quentin Bates) is cause for celebration. Previously known as a major Agatha Christie translator, he brings that experience to bear on the clever way he weaves the intricacy of small village activities into life, with a slightly darker hue, in his dead Iceland series of which this is the first to be issued here. Ari Thor Arason is a young policeman on his first out of city posting, in a small fishing village in Northern Iceland accessible only by a tunnel. When murder hits the small knit community, Ari, a fish out of water, pining for his distant girlfriend, has to summon his inner fibre and unthread the complex strands of the enquiry amongst a bout of harsh weather that is as much a character in the book as the village's inhabitants. First class classic detection with a frozen twist. ~ Maxim Jakubowski A Maxim Jakubowski selected title.
Discover one of the best Scandinavian crime series since Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole. It's the call every officer dreads. Stockholm Criminal Investigator Conny Sjoberg finds a mother and her two young children lying peacefully in bed, their throats coldly and efficiently cut and no signs of a struggle. As Conny and his team get to work they draw a blank on both motive and suspect for these cruel, senseless murders. The only lead they have is a mysterious benefactor of the family - who eludes their every search. Distracted and hampered by the mysterious disappearance of one of their officers, Conny's squad struggles on - until an astonishing discovery turns the case upside down and threatens to tear his team apart...
At the end of a deadly bear hunt across the wilderness of Northern Sweden, the successful hunters are shaken by a grisly discovery. Across in Kurravaara, a woman is murdered with frenzied brutality: crude abuse scrawled above her bloodied bed, her young grandson nowhere to be found. Only Rebecka Martinsson sees a connection. Dropped from the case thanks to a jealous rival, she now stands alone against a killer who brings death to young and old, spawned by a horrifying crime that festers after one hundred years on ice.
Over the last decade there has been huge growth in the popularity of translated crime novels from the Scandinavian countries. They’ve led to an explosion in the popularity film and TV from these countries and together they are referred to as Nordic noir or Scandi crime.