Swedish Crime is on the Climb! (Part Two)

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In my first post on Swedish crime fiction I focused on Henning Mankell and Steig Larsson, the two best known and most widely read Swedish authors. But of course they are but two from a lengthy list of talented crime authors emanating from that country; given its relatively small population (9m), Sweden must surely rank as the bastion of fiction crime writing. In this second post I want to draw your attention to four more authors I think worthy of your attention, so I hope you won't be disappointed!

Håkan Nesser

Inspector and Silance

After Larssen and Mankell, the next Swedish crime writer to come to mind is Håkan Nesser, a multiple award winner whose books have also been turned to film (you might get the DVDs on Amazon). Nesser's books are well written with good plots, and have for me proved absorbing reads. The principal character, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, might differ from most crime detectives you encounter; he likes good food, fine wines, owns an antique bookshop, and seems generally cheerful and untroubled. Top of my list is Borkmann's Point 5 star, where Van Veeteren assists in an investigation while on holiday. I can also highly recommend The Return 3.5 star (where he investigates a murder from his hospital bed); The Inspector and Silence 3.5 star (a girl goes missing from a religious sect and the inevitable body or two shows up); Woman with Birthmark 3 star (a woman seeks revenge following the death of her mother); and The Mind's Eye 2.5 star (dead woman with husband accused - guilty or not?). This last is the one I liked the least, but you may well disagree, I have read some reviews that rate it very highly.

Reading order, should you wish: The Mind's Eye, Borkmann's Point, The Return, Woman with Birthmark, The Inspector and Silence.
The next English translation will be The Unlucky Lottery, due October 2011.

Johan Theorin

Echoes from the Dead Up next is Johan Theorin, another award winner, whose mystery novels are based on the island of Öland in the Baltic sea. His two translated novels to date are: Echoes from the Dead (2008) 4.5 star, and The Darkest Room (2009) 4 star. The next novel in translation, The Quarry, is due in late June 2011 (not long to wait!).

The novels are a mix of mystery, crime, tragedy and the supernatural. The island of Öland is also very central to the storylines, the harsh winter weather being so wonderfully described and adding much to the atmosphere and imagery in The Darkest Room. Plots, characters, atmosphere, all superb. To quote from a review of Echoes from the Dead in the Guardian newspaper, "Theorin's prose is wonderfully descriptive and he writes so well about the natural world that the island is as much a character as the people who live there. The exposition of history and the nature of memory is haunting and lyrical." The reviewer thought The Darkest Room was even better, but I loved them equally. You might be interested to know that Theorin in fact beat the late Stieg Larsson to the Crime Writers' Association's International Dagger Award in July 2010 for The Darkest Room.

Two books you will be reluctant to put down.

Mari Jungstedt

UnspokenMari Jungstedt is a Swedish journalist, and of similar age to Theorin. Her five translated books to date (Unseen (2006) 3.5 star, Unspoken (2007) 4 star, Unknown (2008) 3.5 star, The Killer's Art (2010) 3.5 star, The Dead of Summer (April 2011)) are also based on an island, another thing in common with Theorin. This time it is the island of Gotland, and the novels feature Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas and journalist Johan Berg. Stockholm features a little too, particularly in The Killer's Art, a novel that will have added appeal if you are anyway interested in the art world. Murders, disappearances, and a bit of the macabre to boot. I have still to read The Dead of Summer, not in our libraries at time of writing, so sourcing it elsewhere. So far, Unspoken has been my favourite, with the first in the series being the least satisfying for me. Jungstedt is not quite up there with Theorin in my estimation, but her novels are worthy reads nonetheless.

Åke Edwardson

Frozen TracksÅke Edwardson is yet another journalist come writer, and many of his Chief Inspector Erik Winter novels are based in Gothenburg. Winter is a smart dresser, a jazz fan, likes to cook, and is reputedly the youngest chief inspector in Sweden. Sun and Shadow (English translation, 2005/6) 3 star is the first in the series to be translated, followed by Never End (2006) 3 star, Frozen Tracks (2009) 4 star, and Death Angels (2010) 3.5 star. The Shadow Woman, which I have yet to read, is the last to be translated (2010), yet is supposedly second in the Winter series. Confused? Join the club! Not so much emphasis on the gory as on police procedures, which will please those who don't like too much gore.

For me, Edwardson is not quite on a par with the other Swedish authors I have mentioned to date, but saying that, any book I give three or more stars to is worth the read in my estimation.

Next up...

So far I have covered six Swedish crime writers I think worthy of your attention; but there are still even more to mention, right now I am reading Leif Persson, new to me, so check back soon for the next instalment!

Next Instalment - Swedish Crime is on the Rise (Part Three) - Alvtegen, Eriksson, Läckberg, Åsa Larsson , Marklund.


Eddie, I've read the Nessers & Jungstedts, will keep an eye out for the other two, but you don't sound as enthusiastic. I would also strongly recommend Per Wahloo & Maj Sjowall - husband & wife team who wrote the Martin Beck series in the 1960s/70s; ten books in the series and they are fantastic! Just about to start Karin Fossum now myself & thoroughly enjoyed all of Jo Nesbo. Long live the Scandi crime renaissance!! Have you watched The Killing yet? Finished at the weekend, more red herrings than a smorgasbord, but utterly engrossing. Enjoy!

Thanks Darina. I think maybe I am a bit unfair to Jungstedt, I do give her 3.5 to 4 stars after all, but am commenting in light of the very high opinion I have of some others, and of the four I mention here, Theorin is a bit special I think. Anything I give three stars or more to I have been more than happy with. So read 3 stars or more as 'enthusiasm', definitely! Believe it or not, I have another 9 Swedish crime writers (!) lined up to talk about that I have read, including Wahloo and Sjowall (I count them as one). Writing about some is an exercise in recall, as it may have been a while, but fun too! And yes, I watched all of The Killing, and loved every moment! I plan to buy the DVD set soon, just to have, it was the best crime series I have watched. I might write about authors from another country next just for a change, I have sooo many to talk about!

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