Emerging stars on the Scandinavian crime fiction scene

by Peter

During the Spring I have read a relatively large number of Scandinavian crime fiction books in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. I have focused on “new” writers – writers who have not so far been translated into English.

Reading these new authors has been extremely interesting and rewarding. In addition to the writers so far translated into English – many of whom are very well known internationally – the Scandinavian countries have a number of outstanding crime fiction writers that probably are good enough to make it internationally. Many of them are selling very well in Scandinavia. It seems many readers have already heard about Swedish Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist and Jens Lapidus’ Easy Money and Never Fuck Up, even though they have not yet been published in English. But there are many more interesting writers and so many that are excellent!

Jussi Adler-OlsenThe Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen, who writes about the exceptional and strange Department Q in the Danish Police, made a deep impression on me. He has published three books in this series – Kvinden i buret (The Woman in The Cage – title translations are mine and probably not very good), Fasandræberne (Pheasant killers) and Flaskepost fra P (Letter in a Bottle from P). They all feature the odd and somewhat lazy Inspector Carl Mørck, and have excellent plots, interesting characters, dialogues and intrigues, and fast-paced action. I have so far read two of his books, and they are both almost too suspenseful and funny as well.

Danish female writers Kaaberbøl & Friis has written an outstanding crime fiction novel entitled Drengen i kufferten (The Boy in the Suitcase), where somebody is asked to pick up a suitcase and finds a neatly folded, almost dead little boy. A great mystery by two interesting writers!

AskungarThe Swedish female writers Kristina Ohlsson and Camilla Ceder have impressed me a lot as well. Ohlsson’s Askungar (Cinderellas) features detective Axel Recht and his special unit. Frozen Moment, by Camilla Ceder It is very smartly plotted and excellently written, and has been very well received in Sweden and Norway. Her second book Tusenskönor will be published in Sweden in August. Camilla Ceder’s (b. 1976) debut novel will soon be published in the UK. Her book, Frozen Moments(Fruset ögonblick), a police procedural featuring Inspector Christian Tell, has been a huge seller in Sweden and is very good.

Dødelig applaus, Øystein WiikAmong the newer Norwegian writers, I was very, very impressed by singer Øystein Wiig’s Dødelig applaus (Deadly Applause), a thriller from the international opera world that was full of energy from page one to the last page, and with a very imaginative plot as well. The plot and execution is every bit as good as Henning Mankell.

Thomas Enger, another Norwegian writer who just published his first book Skin-dead (English title “Burned”) (Skinndød), featuring the online newspaper reporter Henning Juul, was also quite impressive. The Norwegian publisher Gyldendal, according to rumors, signed him up for six books after having reviewed the manuscript of his debut book. Enger is an excellent writer, very polished, and very good at building suspense.

Apart from Camilla Ceder, I don’t know whether any of these writers will be published in England or the US. What I do know is that all of them deserve to be. And some of them I feel pretty confident will be. I also think a couple of the books I have mentioned may become huge bestsellers if the marketing is good. I am very excited!

(See also Peter’s Top 10 (Spring 2010) at Amazon US

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorte H

I agree that Adler Olsen, Kaaberbøl & Friis and Camilla Ceder are very fine writers. I have not read the others. I am sure you will be pleased to know that Kaaberbøl and Friis have just sold their Nina Borg trilogy to the American publisher SoHo Press: http://i.pol.dk/kultur/boger/skonlitteratur_boger/article997368.ece

Cheers from Denmark.


And I can’t keep up with the ‘old’ writers! My guess is all these writers will be translated soon. I heard someone refer to this as Scandinavia’s ‘golden age’ – maybe that was here? Anyhow, it sure is true. And what do you call works from Iceland? Nordic, Scandinavian, or just Icelandic? All of it is just great, great writing, with quite unique stories.


Dorthe H: Thanks, interesting about Kaaberbøl and Friis – I did not know!

Nan: Iceland is not properly a part of Scandinavia, I think. It definitely, however, a Nordic country. But I have included Icelandic fiction, crime fiction and movies here and at http://www.scandinavianbooks.com even so. The Icelanders originally came mostly from Denmark and Norway :)

As far as translations are concerned, your guess is as good as mine. Especially the US, in my opinion, is a bit xenophobic and “closed”, culturally speaking. Around 10% of the world’s population lives in the US, yet around 95% of the books they publish are written by US authors. And if you take a close look at the book market, you will notice that many excellent foreign books are published all over the world before they arrive in the US.

And, yes, I think Scandinavian crime fiction is in a kind of Golden Age, with lots of excellent writers writing great books.

Kathy D.

Aha! A validation of my very points about non-U.S. authors being published in the U.S., a rarity. One has to wait a decade, I swear, to get a book that folks in Europe have been reading for months, that was not published in the U.S. I don’t understand the reading public in the U.S. Is it the readers? The publishers? The booksellers? Granted, many in the U.S. are xenophobic about immigrants, their cultures and languages, which is strange enough. But to be leery of reading books by authors from around the globe? In the era of globalization? It’s beyond me.
I feel liberated to have found international mystery reading websites and blogs and just a plethora of books to read, although I’ll have to order them from the Book Depository as that’s the only way I’ll get them. The library in my (huge) city barely buys international crime fiction. There is one circulating copy of Lackberg’s “The Ice Princess,” and no copies of many exciting books. And many will not be purchased by the library system. Bookstores, even mystery-centered, don’t have many books available in Europe, which have been translated into English. We’re left to our own devices to find books we read about.

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