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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.
A hard-hitting punch of a crime thriller is waiting to be discovered, but also within the pages lies a provocative and emotionally stunning read too. This debut was the winner of the 2018 Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and believe me, I can completely understand why. Lelle has been driving the silver road looking for his missing daughter for three years, his endless search consumes his very being. Within the first page I knew I had fallen in love with the writing, which is exquisitely translated. The words connected with my very being, I could feel the words, look around me and see my surroundings. Stina Jackson balances the dark and light quite beautifully, while tense and foreboding, there is also a silvery thread of hope to be found that thrums gently in the background. The cover of The Silver Road beckons, it leads to a read that emotionally connects, opens feelings and allows access to thoughts. Oh, and that ending… the ending sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. A highly recommended read indeed and one of my picks of the month.
A pithy, twisty, challenging tale with a cracking concept. After the murder of a teenage girl in a small Norwegian town, people start pointing the finger of blame at her former boyfriend. Back in 2015 author Thomas Enger had the idea for the book but wasn’t sure whether to head in the direction of writing it for young adults, or as adult crime fiction, his wife suggested both. The YA book came first in Norwegian, then Orenda picked up on the YA to Adult crossover and Thomas has written Inborn (in English). The prologue is two pages of chilling intrigue, allowing a glimpse of hope and possibility before it’s cut down. The chapters flick backwards and forwards in time, with ‘now’ set in court, and ‘then’ slipping inevitably forwards from the violence of the prologue through to the court date. Little spiky hooks of bait made my thoughts toss and turn. I questioned everyone, joined the towns people in their doubt, felt the pain, suspicion, uncertainty. The ending caught in my throat, piercing, then shattering my crime-sleuthing thoughts. Inborn is so very readable, it also provoked and sliced at my feelings, made me stop, made me think, it really is very clever indeed.
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!
Smart, taut and fabulous, Trap really does deliver a first-class read. Following quite beautifully on from Snare (and yes you do need to have read Snare first) can I just mention the covers, they are stunning in their simplicity and how they link to the novels. Set in Reykjavik just after the volcanic eruption in 2011, Sonja discovers that running away doesn’t solve anything, but declaring war can be just as deadly. Lilja Sigurdardottir ensures sharp shocks of chapters hit with increasing energy. The translation by Quentin Bates is again so fully complete, I existed in this Icelandic world without question. My feelings hovered with regards to the characters, swooping one way and then the other, which felt entirely right, as innocence and guilt are so often two sides of the same coin. A short book Trap may be, it’s also a towering powerhouse of read and I gobbled it up in one intense sitting. Please Orenda, may we have some more?!
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.
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.