The Danish Invasion

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The KillingWhen the Vikings raiders first arrived in Ireland towards the end of the 8th century, they came from Norway rather than Denmark, the Danish Vikings preferring to plunder the English coastline. But in more recent times the Danes have made their mark here and elsewhere with a conquest of a different sort. Am referring of course to 'The Killing' (Danish title Forbrydelsen, meaning The Crime), that fabulous award-winning Danish TV crime series that hit our screens during the past year. It is so good that the Americans did a remake, it too being on the TV in recent times. I was glued to the Danish version (have the American version recorded!), and I would claim it as probably the best crime series I have ever watched.

MercyBut the pity of course is that it is not based on a book, so no point in checking library catalogues in the hope. But  don't be too despondent, if it's Danish you crave after seeing 'The Killing', there are a number of authors that might satisfy your appetite. The first author I will mention, and for me a wonderful new find, is Jussi Adler-Olsen (b.1950). His only novel yet in translation and which I just recently read is Mercy (2007, English tr. 2011) 4 stars. This book has been published in the USA under the title "The Keeper of Lost Causes". It is a gripping read with a well structured plot and a story that moves at a good pace. With the tension building all the time, it is centred around the plight of a captive whose inner strength amazes in light of her predicament. I want more from this author.

The Woman from BratislavaNext up is Leif Davidsen (b.1950), who has a number of books in translation, but the only title I have read to date is The Woman from Bratislava (2000, English tr. 2009) 3.5 stars. Better described as a thriller than a crime novel, it takes us into the murky history of the former Yugoslavia and moves between there, Denmark and Poland. It charts the investigations by a Danish university lecturer and the Danish intelligence service into the relationship between two women, one his sister in Denmark, the other whom he meets in Bratislava and who claims to be his half-sister. This is an intelligent and involving book, and one well written. Should you like this, and I think you will, two other titles by Davidsen we have in stock include The Serbian Dane (English tr. 2007) and Lime's Photograph (English tr. 2001).

Miss Smilla's Feeling for SnowI have read two books by Peter Høeg (b.1957), Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow (aka 'Smilla's Sense of Snow') (1992) 3 stars, and The Quiet Girl (2006) 2 stars. In the former, Smilla, who is half Danish, half Greenlander (thus her 'feel' for snow), investigates the death of her 6-year old neighbour and her investigation eventually takes her on a perilous journey to Greenland. What originally alerted me to this book was discovering the film version starring two top-drawer Irish actors, Gabriel Byrne and Richard Harris. The Quiet Girl, on the other hand, is a bit of an enigma. It is the story of a Danish clown with exceptional hearing abilities, plus a tax problem, who is offered refuge by a group of nuns in return for protecting a group of psychic children, one of whom has been kidnapped. This book divides people, and I think I will have to read it again to do it full justice. So my poor star rating  might change, I think I might have missed the point first time round.

The Library of ShadowsMikkel Birkegaard's book, The Library of Shadows 2.5 stars, rounds up my list of Danish crime reads to date. Supernatural powers are central to the storyline, and this I'm afraid caught me unawares and was not to my liking. The owner of a second-hand bookshop is murdered, his son inherits, and following an arson attempt he sets about investigating the bookshop's hidden secret. It culminates in weird happenings in Egypt of all places! But please feel free to disagree with my rating, to each their own!

Other Danish authors I am looking forward to reading sometime soon include Jungersen Christian, Sissel-Jo Gazan and Michael Larsen. Just published in translation (11 August), so not yet in stock unfortunately, is Call me Princess (Amazon link) by Sara Blaedel.

Notes: tr. = translation. Star ratings are my own. 

Comments

The minute I saw your words 'Danish' and 'book', I thought immediately of Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. It is wonderfully atmospheric and its imagery clings to the memory. It was a book that no film could hope to recreate, though I liked the film well enough. The book is well worth reading. And I prefer the original title; it fits the book better.

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