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In this special category celebrate the best of the blossoming crop of high quality crime writing coming from the Scandinavian countries.
Edgy, gutsy, and so so readable, gosh how I love this series. Black River is the third book after Will Dean’s hugely successful debut Dark Pines and follow up Red Snow. Reporter Tuva Moodyson is back, full of spiky attitude and fortitude, which she will need in bucketfuls after her best friend Tammy goes missing. Tuva just has to be on my list of favourite characters, she yells out to me to join her when I see her book waiting! This is Scandi-noir with a twist, the twist comes with essence of wild and remote and heaps of unusual characters. Will Dean’s descriptions plunged me into Gavrik at Midsommar, adding a somewhat fevered dimension to the plot. The occasional little explanations for those of us who don’t live in Sweden were really helpful. Black River is a dream of a read for me, assured and bold it certainly kept me on my toes, and went straight onto my list for Liz Robinson picks of the month. Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!
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.
A quirky, smirky, entertaining slice of fabulous. Covert ops detective Jan Nyman finds himself investigating a death in a holiday village in Finland and a rather striking lady just happens to be the suspect. I will admit to being rather excited about this novel, Antti Tuomainen’s last offering was the wonderful The Man Who Died which was shortlisted for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. The first paragraph of Palm Beach, Finland is beautifully written, it quite literally slapped my attention and I settled in with something approaching ghoulish glee! A wonderful wave of dark humour rolls through this novel gathering raised eyebrows and snorts. The cast increases, the action builds, and oh how my tummy and mind tied themselves in knots as the story spun in ever decreasing eccentric circles. I just want to applaud David Hackston as I completely forgot I was reading a translation. I thoroughly, completely and totally recommend Palm Beach, Finland, do grab yourself a copy and pop a do not disturb sign on your door!
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 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.
Expect the unexpected from the get-go as the prologue lights the touch paper to an intense, smirky, carnival ride of a fabulous read. You wont want it to stop! A valuable meteorite crash lands in a small Finnish town causing absolute mayhem. As Joel, the local pastor, guards the meteorite, he not only faces a crisis in his marriage but also a number of people who decide that the meteorite should be theirs, come what may! After the fiery prologue, chapter one slapped my attention to face a different direction. By the time chapter two arrived, I was sitting wide-eyed, this was setting itself up for a cracking read. I adore Antti Tuomainen’s books, he writes with a finely balanced pen, darker than dark humour hits with a provocative wallop, while feeling fresh and different. I was consumed by Little Siberia and all too soon, as the events around Joel unraveled, the ending hurtled towards me. Not only sharp, amusing, and provocative, this is also an incredibly thoughtful read, so Little Siberia receives an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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
Steadfast, tenacious and fascinating can be used to describe both the book and lead character in ‘Wolves at the Door’. Private Investigator Varg Veum was previously set up and linked to a horrifying case, now the men actually found guilty of the crime are dying one by one, is Varg next on the list? Gunnar Staalesen was in at the beginning of Nordic Noir, he started this series 40 years ago (there is a statue of Varg Veum in Bergen where the series is set) and has been published in 24 countries. This book does specifically link to previously translated novels so if thinking of stepping into the series you might want to start with ‘Where Roses Never Die’, followed by ‘Wolves in the Dark’ as a lead into this particular novel (‘Big Sister’ also sits in there too). Don Bartlett successfully ensured the thought of a translator didn’t enter my head as I was reading, I was sucked straight into the story and stayed there. I particularly enjoyed the slow slog of the investigation, each piece of information entering the fray and increasing the tension until it reached breaking point. With short, smart, darkly punchy chapters ’Wolves at the Door’ is a provocative and gripping read.
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.
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.