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Where to Start

with Scandinavian
Crime Fiction
From the author of the new book:
Death in a Cold Climate:
A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction


Overwhelmed by the Nordic Noir invasion?

Barry Forshaw, author of the new book Death in a Cold
Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, offers a
road map to help you get your bearings...


RRP: 16.99

Using unique interview material with writers, publishers and

translators, Barry Forshaw, the UK's principal crime fiction expert,
guides readers through this celebrated genre.
Covers Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesb, Hkan
Nesser, Karin Fossum, Camilla Lckberg, Liza Marklund, Jussi
Adler-Olsen, Matti Joensuu and many others.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Fourth Estate


The Laughing Policeman (1968)
Two writers a crime-writing
team might be said to have
started it all. It is a cause for real
celebration that readers (other
than Scandinavians) can now read
the complete works (in English)
of the duo: Maj Sjwall and Per
Wahl. The critical stock of
Sjwall/Wahl could not be
higher, with most fellow crime
writing practitioners rating them
as the very best exponents of
the police procedural. So if you
havent familiarised yourself yet
with the Martin Beck series (of
which The Laughing Policeman
(1968) is the best known), you
should; Beck is the ultimate
Scandinavian copper, and the
setting is (to British eyes)
strikingly unfamiliar. And if you
prefer to ignore the subtle Marxist
perspective of the books, it is easy
to do so.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Random House Group

Miss Smillas Feeling for Snow (1992)

The atmospheric literary crime

novel that almost single-handedly
inaugurated without trying to
the current Scandinavian invasion
mesmerises with its evocative use of
Copenhagen locales and weather, so
significant for the troubled, intuitive
heroine. Most of all, its the poetic
quality of the novel that haunts the

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Random House Group

The Redbreast (2000)
Is he really The Next Stieg Larsson
as it proclaims on the jackets?
Perhaps not, but hes certainly the
breakthrough Nordic crime writer
post-Larsson, and such Jo Nesb
books as The Devils Star (2003) and
his massive 2007 novel The Snowman
are more quirky and individual than
those of most of his Scandinavian
colleagues not least thanks to
Nesbs wonderfully dyspeptic
detective, Harry Hole (pronounced
Hurler). The Redbreast, one of
the writers most riveting novels,
might be said to have predicted the
recent neo-Nazi killings in Norway
and the books scarifying vision of
Nordic fascism is as powerful as its
emotional force and humour.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Random House Group

Firewall (1998)

Currently the subject of two TV

series (one British, one Swedish),
Henning Mankells detective
Kurt Wallander (something of an
alter ego for the similarly laconic
Mankell) is one of the great
creations of modern crime fiction:
overweight, diabetes-ridden and
with all the problems of modern
society leaving scars on his soul.
Firewall is one of the writers
unvarnished portraits of modern
life, in which society and all its
institutions (not least the family)
are put under the microscope.
Mankells long-term protagonist
finds himself propelled into a new
area of crime: cyberspace. Several
deaths have occurred: the victims
include the user of a cash dispenser,
and a taxi driver murdered by two
young girls. The country is plunged
into a blackout by an electricity
failure, and a grim find is made at a
power station.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Random House Group

Jar City (2000)
When the writer Arnaldur
Indriason won a prestigious CWA
Gold Dagger Award for his novel
Silence of the Grave (2001), originally
written in his native Icelandic, it
alerted many people to a writer
already celebrated by Nordic crime
readers. After that Gold Dagger,
many felt that Indriason would
be the first foreign-language crime
writer to break the Henning Mankell
stranglehold. So far, the late Stieg
Larsson is in pole position, but the
talented Indriason is making a
mark with his Reykjavik-set thrillers.
His debut, Jar City is Indriasons
calling card. When the body of an
old man is found in his apartment,
DI Erlendur has only an enigmatic
note found on the body to go on.
The murdered mans computer is
found to contain pornography, and it
transpires that he has been accused
of rape in the past.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Hodder

Last Rituals (2005)

Its to be hoped that the children

who so avidly consumed Yrsa
Sigurardttirs juvenile novels
didnt accidentally pick up Last
Rituals, as the authors first adult
book was a very different kettle of
fish from her earlier work (I had
five books worth of bad thoughts I
needed to vent Last Rituals was a
sort of release for my darker side,
she noted). The book showed that
Sigurardttir has arrived (fully
formed, it seems) as something
of a unique talent in the field (she
needs to be the once rarefied
field of Icelandic crime thrillers is
now becoming overcrowded). The
body of a young history student
is discovered in Reykjavik, his
eyes gouged out. He has been
researching witchcraft and torture,
and his moneyed German parents
wont accept the police theory that
he was killed by his drug dealer...

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Quercus

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005)
Larsson is the ultimate posthumous
phenomenon. Lisbeth Salander is a
million miles away from the alcoholic
coppers with messy private lives
who crowd most current fare. She
is a damaged, resentful young girl,
using her Goth makeup, tattoos and
piercings to conceal -- and barely, at
that -- her sociopathic tendencies.
But the appearance is deceptive -she has a laserlike intelligence and
an ability to assess the depths of the
human psyche. Stieg Larsson pairs
her with a journalist who has fallen
from grace and is redeeming himself
by investigating a string of grisly
killings from four decades ago. But
his surly computer hacker assistant
turns out to be more than his equal
when the duo takes on the darker
tributaries of the influential Vanger
family (while she exacts revenge on
a corrupt authority figure who has
abused her). The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo is an exuberant piece of fiction
that defies category -- its a shame
that its author was never able to
witness its success.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Pan Macmillan

Woman with Birthmark (1996)


Where does Hkan Nesser set

his novels? Its not important;
his crime fiction, located in an
unnamed Scandinavian country, is
so commandingly written it makes
most contemporary crime fare seem
rather thin gruel. Nessers copper,
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, has
been lauded by Colin Dexter as
destined for a place among the
great European detectives, and the
handling of the labyrinthine cases he
tackles has a rigour and logic all too
rarely encountered in most modern
crime fiction. Perhaps the best entry
point for those new to Van Veeteren
is Woman with Birthmark. A young
woman is given a grim deathbed
revelation by her mother. Calmly she
begins to draw plans for a bloody
campaign of revenge. Her first victim
is shot at point-blank range, first in
the chest, then in the groin. Soon
Van Veeteren is up against a crusade
of slaughter made more pressing
when it becomes apparent that
there are a possible 30 targets in the
killers gunsights.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Corvus

Anne Holt
1222 (2010)
Agatha Christie (whose cut-off
locales are echoed in Anne Holts
1222) dropped the occasional
sexually ambiguous character into
her murderous scenarios but what
would she have made of Holts steely
sleuth, Hanne Wilhelmsen, married
(with a child) to her lesbian partner?
In a tunnel under the Norwegian
mountains, a train crash results in
only one fatality: the driver. The
survivors nearly 300 of them are
transported (during a snowstorm) to
a hotel called Finse 1222 near the site
of the accident. As attempts are made
to move the stranded passengers to
safety, people are being murdered
one by one, and a new terror is added
to the suffering of those holed up in
1222. But among the survivors is a
difficult, antisocial woman who has
had a ski pole driven into her thigh in
the train wreck. But this isnt her only
handicap: Hanne Wilhelmsen, retired
from the Oslo police, is paralysed
from the waist down after being
shot on duty. However, she is still a
formidable opponent, as the unknown
murderer is about to learn.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Random House Group

Echoes from the Dead (2007)


If youre looking for the real

sleeper among Scandinavian
crime writers the real crme de la
crme -- youve found him in Johan
Theorin. His Echoes from the Dead
is exemplary stuff and its prizewinning status (Swedish and British)
is massively justified. We are taken
on a memorable trip to the Swedish
island of Oland, and the atmosphere
of a windblown off-season Swedish
island is handled in nonpareil fashion.
The narrative shifts between past
and present are impeccably handled,
but Theorin is equally adroit at
characterisation: the relationship
between a woman whose son has
vanished in the fog and her father
is strikingly done. Theorin has few
equals at disturbing the reader a
key element of another equally
accomplished novel, The Darkest
Room, which won the Glass Key
Award in 2009.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Random House Group

He Who Fears the Wolf (1997)
At one time, the crime novels of
Karin Fossum were something
of a well-kept secret, known to a
growing band of aficionados but
not to the larger crime readership.
Not any more. In fact, Fossums
work certainly deserves the widest
possible audience. Dont Look Back
(1996) was a taut psychological
thriller, and He Who Fears the Wolf
is even more persuasive. In
an isolated village, a horribly
mutilated body has been found,
and the suspect (spotted in the
woods nearby) has recently
been committed to a psychiatric
institution. Then a violent bank
robbery occurs, with the thief
grabbing a hostage and escaping.
As the gunman becomes more and
more desperate, paradoxically a
strange calm seems to descend on
his hostage...


Jacket reproduced courtesy of Arcadia Books

The Consorts of Death (2009)


Staalesen is undoubtedly one of

the finest detective novelists in a
line that stretches from Raymond
Chandler to the present. A phone
call from the past sets The Consorts
of Death in train: an old flame
brings back the name Johnny boy
to Bergen private eye Varg Veum.
Veum started his career as a child
protection officer in the Norwegian
social services, and in 1970 twoyear-old Johnny boy was an acute
referral case, who needed to be
rescued from an abused mother and
her violent partner. Four years later,
Veum was requested to look after
a traumatised child at a murder
scene. It was Johnny boy and the
dead man is his foster father. Still
later, Veum, now a private eye, is
asked to intervene in a hostage

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Faber & Faber

The Last Fix (2000)
The Norwegian K O Dahl has a
signature book: The Last Fix -- and
its unflinching stuff. Katrine is a
young woman struggling to put
her shattered life into some kind
of order. She is finishing a drug
rehabilitation course at a commune
for addicts in Vinterhagen, and
feels confident enough to celebrate
with her social workers at a party.
Leaving her lover asleep in a car,
she strays to the shore of a lake.
As dawn breaks, she sees a man
approaching her from the nearby
trees. He is naked. It is the last
thing Katrine will ever see. This
arresting opening of The Last Fix
instantly grabs the attention, and
the book (the third to be translated
into English -- Dahl had written
eleven by this point) had UK and
US readers wondering why he is
the least known of the ocean of
Scandinavian writers washing over
the current crime scene.


Jacket reproduced courtesy of Random House Group

Frozen Tracks (2001)


Its only a matter of time. While

the ex-journalist and novelist ke
Edwardson hasnt yet enjoyed
the success of his better-known
colleagues, the auguries are good,
with the youthful Inspector Winter
(and his older, more saturnine
colleague Ringmar) bidding fair to
make a breakthrough. In Frozen
Tracks, its autumn in Gothenburg,
and two unpleasant incidents
have caused headaches for DCI
Erik Winter. Two children have
been lured into a car by a man
proffering sweets. Reports are
filed, but as different day nurseries
and different police stations are
involved, the reports are not
correlated (Edwardson implies that
a lack of joined-up thinking is just
as endemic to Swedish policing
as it is to British). But Winter has
a more pressing problem: a series
of university students have been
violently attacked, seemingly at

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Quercus


Three Seconds (2010)
The edgy writing team of Roslund
and Hellstrm (ex-criminal and
criminologist) are among the
hottest names in new Nordic crime
fiction (and are notably darker than
most). Three Seconds is a book that
invites comparison with The Girl
with the Dragon Tattoo. There is the
same obsessive piling on of detail,
the same endemic corruption of the
authorities (police force, Ministry of
Justice), and theres even Larssons
tactic of the slow, challenging
introductory chapters that suddenly
shift into higher gear. But these
comparisons aside, Roslund and
Hellstrm are very much their
own men. A murder in Stockholm
appears to be the bloody aftermath
of a drug deal gone sour -- whats
more, the police are involved. Ace
undercover man Piet Hoffmann
has to infiltrate the Polish mafias
drug set-up in a maximum security
prison, but finds himself linked to
the killing of another clandestine
operative posing as a drug dealer.

Jacket reproduced courtesy of Harper Collins

The Ice Princess (2002)


A name (already massively

successful in Sweden) that may
soon be on many non-Nordic lips
is that of Camilla Lckberg. Her
first book to reach the UK was The
Ice Princess -- and if its acclaim in
Sweden wasnt quite repeated here,
there was still a great deal of praise,
with Lckberg hailed as Swedens
new Agatha Christie, though that
hardly tells the whole story. True,
there is a Christie-style provincial
village (here, Fjllbacka, in which the
author herself was born) and a slew
of suspects for a very unpleasant
murder. Also Christie-like is the
machine-tooled precision of the
plot, but Lckberg is very much a
contemporary writer. The writer
Erica Falck has made a journey
to her home town on the death
of her parents, but discovers the
community in turmoil. A childhood
friend, Alex, has been found with
her wrists slashed, and her body
is frozen solid in a bath that has
turned to ice.

Praise for Death in a Cold Climate:

A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Extensive, penetrating and intelligently written, Barry

Forshaws book is the most fulfilling work on the strange
genre of Nordic Noir I have ever encountered.
- Hkan Nesser, author of The Inspector and Silence
Far more than a checklist, this is the essential guide
through the snowdrifts of Nordic Noir.
- Val McDermid, author of The Wire in the Blood
Like its subjects, this book is hard to put down, and will
undoubtedly be returned to time and again.
- Dr Steven Peacock, University of Hertfordshire, UK
An essential reading guide for lovers of the crime genre.
- Laura Wilson, crime fiction critic, The Guardian

Paperback | 978-0-230-36144-7
RRP: 16.99

Part of the Crime Files series

for more information visit

About the Author

BARRY FORSHAW is a writer and
journalist specialising in crime fiction
and cinema. His books include The Man
Who Left Too Soon: The Life and Works
of Stieg Larsson (2010), British Crime
Writing: An Encyclopedia (2008), The
Rough Guide to Crime Fiction (2007),
Italian Cinema: Arthouse to Exploitation
(2006) and the forthcoming British Crime
Film (2012), and he has contributed to
the Directory of World Cinema. He has also written for a variety of
national newspapers as well as for Movie Mail, Waterstones Books
Quarterly and Good Book Guide and is editor of the online Crime
Time magazine. He is also a talking head for the ITV Crime Thriller
author profiles and BBC TV documentaries, and has been Vice Chair
of the Crime Writers Association