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Category Archive for 'Nordic Noir'

In his first Detective Erlendur novel to be published in English since 2012, Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason provides a “prequel” to the entire series, now numbering six novels, and flashes back to establish some of Erlandur’s background, personality, and past history at a time when Erlendur is still in his twenties. In Reykjavik Nights Erlendur has just started working for the Reykjavik police, on the night shift, with two young law students who are working part-time for the summer, and he himself is considering whether to take classes at nearby Hamrahlid College which offers adult education classes. Most of his night-time duties consist of breaking up fights, arresting drunks, attending to the victims of automobile accidents, and reporting more serious events – sudden deaths and disappearances – some of which intrigue Erlendur enough that he follows up, unofficially, on his own. Though he does not consider himself “nocturnal,” he does not object to the night duty, having become “reconciled to the city, when its streets were finally quiet with no sound but the wind and the low chugging of the engine” of the van. A loner who has never established strong connections with his peers, and who seems to have no family, Erlendur makes few commitments, a characteristic which becomes even more dramatic in the novels of his later life in which he is almost pathologically solitary, reflecting his grim vision of reality and even grimmer vision of mankind. As is always the case with Indridason’s novels, he keeps the style clear and sometimes terse, but in this novel, he makes Erlendur more human. By isolating Erlendur from the family he eventually has in the later novels, it is possible to see Erlendur as a person who cares about others when he does not have the family distractions which complicate his life twenty years later.

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In this second of his “new style” of novels, Norwegian author Jo Nesbo creates a character frantic to escape the Oslo hitmen sent to kill him. Traveling eighteen hundred kilometers in seventy hours of non-stop racing, the character, Ulf, finally reaches the Finnmark Plateau to the far north of Norway. Located well above the Arctic Circle, near the North Pole, Finnmark appears to be the perfect hiding place for Ulf, also known as Jon Hansen. Its enormous land area – larger than the country of Denmark – has only seventy-five-thousand residents – a good place to hide – and with three months of midnight sun, it is not a place where an enemy can sneak up easily in the dark. Like Olav in Blood on Snow, Nesbo’s previous novel, Ulf has become involved with the organized crime ring run by “the Fisherman” in Oslo, and also like Olav, he appears to have a good heart beneath his hard exterior – a young man sucked into being “fixer” for a big-time criminal by circumstances over which he believes he had no control. His fifteen years of schooling, including two years of university, never prepared him for the kind of absolute choice he had to make when, in desperate need of a large sum of money, he connected with the Fisherman as the only way to save a life. Now, on the run because he did not fulfill a contract killing, Ulf has arrived in tiny Kasund, near Kautokeino, home to fishermen, reindeer herders, and the aboriginal Sami culture.

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WINNER of the 2015 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of 2015. Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s prize-winning noir thriller features several murders, all of which take place aboard a large yacht which has been traveling from Portugal to its base in Reykjavik during a gale. This “locked boat” mystery, similar to the “locked room” mysteries pioneered by Edgar Allen Poe and Wilkie Collins, involves characters “locked” in a place from which they cannot escape, and when a murder takes place, both the victim and the killer are among the characters known to each other and to the reader. The author provides hints and clues throughout as the murders take place, encouraging the reader to become emotionally involved in the search for the killer, as possible motivations for murder are discovered for virtually all the characters. Sigurdardottir takes this a step further, keeping her murderer and her suspects on the “locked boat,” while adding an investigator on shore, after the fact – Thora Gudmundsdottir, a lawyer/sleuth who has been hired at the behest of a devastated family.

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Eighty million copies of the three novels in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series have been sold since they were released in Sweden and then translated into almost every language in the world. Most readers who began this series – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005), The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006), and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2007) – became instant fans of its main characters, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist, and went on to read all of the books. Chosen by the heirs of Stieg Larsson’s estate to be the author of this new Millenium novel, David Lagercrantz is a Swedish journalist who is also a successful novelist, and it may be for these story-telling skills, especially, that he was selected to write the sequel to The Girl Who Played with Fire, Larsson’s last novel. For Lagercrantz, the task of succeeding as the author of a new Millenium novel must have been intimidating, if not terrifying, with everyone who has ever read these novels looking for mistakes, changes, and signs that main characters may not be so intriguing in this novel, or that the plots may not be as full of suspense and wild excitement, or that Lagercrantz might not be up to the task as Larsson’s successor. Time to stop wondering. Here Lagercrantz’s skills as a fiction writer add to the novel, and while it may not have the raw energy – and sometimes sadistic violence – of Stieg Larsson’s novels, it is more polished, with a fine sense of plotting which allows the author to draw in the reader and draw out the excitement.

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Thirteen is certainly not an unlucky number for Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, whose thirteenth crime novel has just been released in English. Winner of countless prizes, including the prestigious Glass Key Award, the Edgar Award, and Norway’s Peer Gynt Prize, Nesbo has written ten novels in the Harry Hole series, and three stand-alone novels, Headhunters, The Son, and now Blood on Snow, a novel quite different in length, focus, and tone from all that have gone before. Readers who admire Nesbo for his ability to write in a variety of thriller subgenres from horror (The Snowman) to an historical about Norway’s Nazi past and neo-Nazi present (The Redbreast) – have come to expect complex, multi-layered plots punctuated by action scenes of almost unimaginable violence. This short novel about a hired killer introduces a newer style, however – leaner, cleaner, and more introspective, with wonderful ironic humor new for readers of Nesbo. Though the novel certainly has its excitements, much of the novel capitalizes on the ironies which exist between the thinking of Olav Johansen, the young, dyslexic main character, and his actions as a “fixer.” It is through Olav’s running commentary that the reader understands the narrative, and one cannot miss the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the author who is controlling this character.

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