Nordic authors come in from the cold

July 30, 2011
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There seems to be a bit of a trend for kick-ass Scandinavian thrillers of late. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy has pushed the Nordic murder-mystery genre into the spotlight and those books have made a whole lot of readers sit up and take notice, but there are lots of other authors waving the Nordic flag.

Mercy, by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Michael Joseph, RRP $40):

This book’s back-cover blurb tells of a prisoner who scratches at a wall until her fingers bleed, as she vows to hold on to her sanity while trapped in a room with no escape and no way of measuring the time she has been held captive.

It paints an unpleasant picture of a woman trapped in a seemingly endless horror and makes that horror uncomfortably real.

Copenhagen detective Carl Morck has been moved from the homicide department to the newly created division that looks into unsolved crimes.

The first case he is assigned is that of Merete Lynggaard, who has been missing for five years.

The hero in this story is one of those typically dark and slightly dangerous types with a dark and slightly dangerous past.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just that it does seem to be a fairly common component of any halfway murder-mystery thriller these days.

Fortunately, the dark and slightly dangerous past of our hero doesn’t overshadow the compelling story of the cold case he is investigating.

The Troubled Man, by Henning Mankell (Harvill Secker, RRP $40):

This one has plenty of action and a surprising dose of humour to boot. It is well worth a read.

Author Henning Mankell has been described as the godfather of Swedish crime- writing and has sold more than 30 million books around the world.

This is the first new novel to feature Swedish detective Kurt Wallander for 10 years, but according to the author, it will be the last.

Navy officer Haken von Enke disappears while out for his daily walk and Detective Wallander finds clues that lead back to the Cold War and hired killers from Eastern Europe.

In what looks like it could well become a spy scandal that will rock Sweden, Wallander tries to get to the bottom of it all and find the man who disappeared, and who also happens to be his daughter’s father-in- law.

The Wallander novels do take a bit of following, so I would recommend reading one or two of the earlier offerings before tackling this one – the complicated backstories involving Kurt and daughter Linda aren’t easily straightened out in this final book.

By the end of the book, the story was nearly explained and nearly satisfying, but there were some loose ends that didn’t seem to be properly tied off and it felt a little directionless at times.

This wasn’t one of the best Wallander novels, but if you are a fan of the series, I’m sure that you will enjoy this final chapter.

Exposed, by Liza Marklund (Bantam Press, RRP $40):

In life imitating art imitating life, and following in the footsteps of late journalist and novelist Stieg Larsson, Liza Marklund is a Swedish journalist and crime writer who writes about a fictional journalist who solves crimes.

The first Marklund book I read was The Postcard Killers, which she co- wrote with James Patterson.

I am never sure just how much of each author goes into a James Patterson collaboration but have ended up finding some good authors as a result of those books. Liza Marklund is no exception.

After reading the Patterson collaboration, Iwas a fan.

In this latest book, young reporter Annika Bengtzon is working at Stockholm’s largest tabloid manning the tip- off hotline.

Annika is desperate for her big break and when a caller tells her the naked body of a young woman has been found in a nearby cemetery, everything changes.

While piecing together details of the victim’s life, she stumbles across video footage that appears to clear the main suspect.

As she continues to ask questions, Annika is exposed to the harsh world of journalism and sees just how far people will go to protect their secrets.

The similarities between authors Marklund and Larsson includes an incredible knack for weaving complicated stories into very readable and compelling thrillers.

The Leopard, by Jo Nesbo (Harvill Secker, RRP $40):

While this is the ninth novel by Jo Nesbo to feature Inspector Harry Hole, it is just the seventh to be translated for the English market.

The previous book in the series, The Snowman, has received huge amounts of praise and hit bestseller lists around the world. However, I struggled through that one at times but have to admit, I did eventually buckle down and once I got past the distractingly weird stuff, I found the story pretty good.

And yes, for those of you who have heard the rumour that after reading The Snowman, you will forever be scared of those icy little critters, I now look at snowmen a little more warily than I did in the past. However, I enjoyed this book much more. It has all the same level of creepiness and intrigue but it doesn’t have the distractions of the previous book.

After the traumas Inspector Hole endured in last instalment, he has dropped off the radar, abandoning work for the delights of Hong Kong’s opium dens.

Meanwhile, two young women have been found dead and the experts say they both had 24 stab wounds in their mouths. And they both drowned — in their own blood.

Pressure is mounting on the police to find the killer, but they need Inspector Hole. Unfortunately, the now-addicted Hole is keen to stay in Hong Kong, but new crime squad officer, Kaja Sollness, convinces Hole to return to Norway to be with his dying father.

Hole has no plans to work on the case, but a third murder piques his interest when he discovers the women all spent the night in an isolated mountain hostel and now someone is picking off the guests one by one. This has all the nasty, edge-of-your-seat creepiness and intrigue to keep you hooked to the end.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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