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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 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.
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
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.