Tuesday 12 February 2008

Scandinavian crime

Another of my purchases at Hay on Wye at the weekend was Missing by Karen Altvegen. Several of her books were available, and I had to exercise great (and, when it comes to books, uncharacteristic) self-discipline to confine myself to buying only one.

I haven’t read Altvegen before, but a number of people whose judgment I respect have spoken of her work positively. The number of Scandinavian crime writers who have attained popularity in the UK in recent years is quite startling. At one time, only Sjowall and Wahloo enjoyed any sort of profile in this country (check out the recent paperback reprints of their Martin Beck books, which include excellent and thoughtful introductions by Andrew Taylor and others.)

The catalyst for change was probably twofold (if a catalyst can be twofold?) Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow achieved great success, although I felt it faded a little after a very good start. And Henning Mankell’s books really took off once Sidetracked won the CWA Gold Dagger.

I’ve enjoyed a number of Scandinavian writers (in translation) in recent years. Jar City, set in Reykjavik and written by Arnaldur Indridasun, was first class, and I’ve also appreciated books by Karin Fossum, Hakan Nesser and Marie Jungstedt. I’m hoping to read my first Jo Nesbo soon.

Fossum is one of the guests of honour at the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival in July and I’m looking forward to hearing her talk about her work, as well as reading more of it. Meantime, it will be good to sample Altvegen.


Kerrie said...

Hello Martin

I agree with you about MISSING Martin.
The other one I really enjoyed was BETRAYAL
My summary:
A psychological thriller where 2 stories converge: Eva discovers her husband is having an affair with her son's day-care teacher. She meets Jonas, a damaged young man keeping vigil in hospital over his girlfriend Anna who has been in a coma for nearly two and a half years. The stories run in parallel for most of the book, the tension mounting all the time, and then converge in a most unforesee-able way, with a chilling ending. Nominated for the Best Nordic Crime Novel in 2004.

Anonymous said...

I have read some excellent Scandinavians since starting blogging and discovering Euro Crime -- before that I was limited to Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum (both excellent).
I've adored Lisa Marklund, Maj Sjowell/Per Wahloo, Asa Larsson (all Sweden), Indridason whom you mention. Nessar too is pretty good, as is Ake Edwardson (an academic). I have read one book by each of Leif Davidson, Christian Jungerson, Pernille Rygg, Stieg Larsson, Jan Costin Wagner (a Finnish-German) and enjoyed all. Probably more, but memory fails. I have read two Jo Nesbos -- both were similar, quite poor first 100 pages, rather silly rationale for crime, but Harry Hole is a wonderful character and his interactions/circumstances perfectly realised.
Obviously all these books are very different, idiosyncratic in many cases, but they mostly are top of my list because they are very strong on characterisation, and don't rely on "special effects". Good translations are also key.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks very much for these comments. Aaaagh! So many interesting books to seek out and read, so little time!

Karen (Euro Crime) said...

and Helene Tursten and K O Dahl :-).

MaxCady said...

Stieg Lsrsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo is an excellent novel

Martin Edwards said...

Max, everyone who has read that book seems impressed, so I shall have to seek it out.