Nordic Noir aka Scandinavian Crime Fiction

by MaggiePowell

Nordic Noir is a fabulous genre that blends mystery, detectives, thrillers and Scandinavia. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Kurt Wallander novels are great examples.

What makes Scandinavian Crime Fiction different? Why is Nordic Noir so enticing? To begin with, it's generally extraordinarily well written. Characters are well developed, and the story goes deeper than your average cozy mystery. The writing tends to be straightforward... not a lot of guessing or fancy word play. Nordic Noir does comment about society in Scandinavia... but not as dry as a standard sociological or psychological study. We learn about different strata of society in a land that is cold and dark.

As an American, I do get a thrill from the armchair travel, and I enjoy learning a bit about the culture of these countries (and no, I'm not foolish enough to think that everyone in Sweden a murderer or policeman). It's fascinating to read about life in Iceland or Sweden.

Like many readers, I jumped in with Stieg Larsson and the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. I was hooked. So many twists and turns, the characters are real, but bigger than life. So many dark secrets... so much snow. Who would have though that an ant-social, emotionally troubled hacker and a discredited journalist could make such a compelling team.

There is a certain darkness to the stories, almost as if the absence of sunlight penetrates the pages of the books.

Nordic Noir- The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Pre-Order Now for September 1 Release!
Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV

A compact and authoritative guide to the phenomenally popular genre, by a leading expert in Scandinavian crime fictionThis information-packed study examines and celebrates books...

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Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Barry Forshaw analyses the Nordic Noir Genre
Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction (Crime Files)

Barry Forshaw, the UK's principal crime fiction expert, presents a celebration and analysis ofthe Scandinavian crime genre; from Sjöwall and Wahlöö's Martin Beck series, through...

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Henning Mankell

Kurt Wallander

Henning MankellSwedish author, Henning Mankell has written a number of crime books, plays and childrens books, but he is best known for his Kurt Wallander novels. Millions of his books have been sold around the world, and a number of them have been filmed for television, or as movies. 

 Mankell has been very active in leftist politics his whole adult life, and his political feelings show in his books. Many reflect hard questions about Swedish society.

He and his wife Eva Bergman (daughter of Ingmar Bergman) divide their time between Sweden and Mozambique.... or "between snow and sand".

His writing awards include the Gold Dagger Award and the German Tolerance Award. 

Kurt Wallander Mysteries

By Henning Mankell
The Dogs of Riga: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (2)

Second in the Kurt Wallander series.On the Swedish coastline, two bodies, victims of grisly torture and cold execution, are discovered in a life raft. With no witnesses, no moti...

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Sidetracked: A Kurt Wallander Mystery (5)

Fourth in the Kurt Wallander series.In the award-winning Sidetracked, Kurt Wallander is called to a nearby rapeseed field where a teenage girl has been loitering all day long. H...

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Other Books By Henning Mankell

These Books Stand Alone
The Return of the Dancing Master

When retired policeman Herbert Molin is found brutally slaughtered on his remote farm in the northern forests of Sweden, police find strange tracks in the snow — as if someone h...

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A Treacherous Paradise

From the internationally acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander crime novels, a powerful stand-alone novel set in early-twentieth-century Sweden and Mozambique, whose vividly dr...

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Kenneth Branahg as Kurt Wallander

The "disillusioned everyman" dealing with Crime in Ystad Sweden
Wallander: Sidetracked / Firewall / One Step Behind

Kenneth Branagh plays Swedish detective Kurt Wallander in three new crime dramas based on the best-selling books by Henning Mankell, an international publishing phenomenon with ...

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Jo Nesbø

Inspector Harry Hole of Oslo Norway

Jo NesbøJo Nesbø is a trained musician, who worked as a freelance journalist and stockbroker before he began his writing career. 

The Bat, his number one bestseller, introduces his alcoholic detective, Inspector Harry Hole. The novels are violent and gritty, showing the nasty underside of Oslo, Norway. 

He has also written a number of children's books about a Doktor Proktor.

Millions of Jo Nesbø's books have been sold world wide, translated into over 40 languages, and he was nominated for an Edgar Award.

Jo Nesbo

First Inspector Harry Hole
The Bat: The First Inspector Harry Hole Novel (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original)

The electrifying first appearance of Jo Nesbø’s detective, Harry Hole. Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is fr...

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The Redeemer (A Harry Hole Novel)

A fantastically gripping thriller from the best-selling author of The Snowman.Christmas shoppers stop to hear a Salvation Army concert on a crowded Oslo street. A gunshot cuts t...

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The Redbreast: A Harry Hole Novel

“An elegant and complex thriller….Harrowingly beautiful.”—New York Times Book Review“A hugely impressive achievement—ambitious in scope, and skilled in execution.”—Los Angeles T...

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Stieg Larsson

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Stieg LarssonStieg Larsson may not have been the first, but to Americans he is the best known Nordic Noir writer. His Lizbeth Salander novels.... The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest were a publishing sensation, introducing many of us to the genre. 

The books were made into movies in Sweden (definitely worth watching) and now they are being remade in the US (different perspective, but still good). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is rough, gritty, dark, political, and yet accessible. I had a hard time putting it down. 

Before writing the Trilogy, Stieg Larsson was the editor in Chief of the Swedish magazine Expo. He was an expert in right wing extremist groups, such at the Nazi party. His knowledge of the subject swirls through his books. 

Sadly, Stieg Larsson died just before the third book was published. Rumors circulate that other books were written, but at the moment the estate is tied up in a knot. Hopefully, there are treasures in Larsson's computer files... I'd love to read more!




The Millennium Trilogy...

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy Series Set: (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) (The Girl Who Pl...

Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium Trilogy thrillers are set in Sweden and feature the detective, Lisbeth Salander. The stories are intricately plotted, lavishly detailed b...

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Kjell Erikson

From Upsala Sweden

Kjell Erikson recieved the Swedish Crime Writers' Academy Best Swedish Crime Novel Award for The Princess of Barundi in 2002. His detective Ann Lindell goes on to appear in other books.

 The character development, and the portrayal of life in small town Sweden are fantastic and riveting. Everyone seems to know everyone else, lives are entangled... A must read. 

The Princess of Barundi

The Princess of Burundi (Ann Lindell Mysteries)

Winner of the Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel, The Princess of Burundi introduces American readers to a crime writer who has quickly become an international sen...

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Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Icelandic Paranormal!

Yrsa SigurdardottirYrsa Sigurdardottir is not a standard cop shop mystery writer... her books tend to take a bit of a paranormal bend, but so good. (FYI Islandic names are Patronymic... which means her name in English would be Yrsa, daughter of Sigurdar.... you can just address her as Yrsa) Her novels are deep and dark, and describe a lot of the nature and customs of Iceland. 

Her detective is Thora Gudmundsdottir, is believable, and brings some interesting personal issues to the stories. One of the best descriptions of her work that I've seen says "it combines Law and Order, Cold Case and Northern Exposure". Grin ... I could see that, if Northern Exposure were less funny, and you just focus on the quirks....

My Soul to Take: A Novel of Iceland

“Top notch crime fiction.”—Boston Globe American readers first met Icelandic lawyer and investigator Thóra Gudmundsdóttir in Last Rituals. In My Soul to Take, internationally ac...

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Someone to Watch Over Me

A creepy, compelling thriller, Someone to Watch Over Me is the fifth Thora Gudmundsdottir novel from Yrsa, 'Iceland's answer to Stieg Larsson' (Daily Telegraph). Berglind hurrie...

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The Day is Dark (Thóra Gudmundsdóttir crime series)

When all contact is lost with two Icelanders working in a harsh and sparsely populated area on the northeast coast of Greenland, Thora is hired to investigate. Is there any conn...

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Ashes to Dust: A Thriller

"I can see why so many people are enthusiastic about Yrsa's work. It's very engaging, fresh, and exciting." -- James Patterson "Iceland's crime queen." --The Scotsman One of the...

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Åke Edwardson

Swedish Chief Inspector Winter

Åke Edwardson was a lecturer at Gothenburg University in Sweden before he began writing Chief Inspector Winter detective novels. 

He has won the Swedish Crime Writer's Academy Award three times. His books are both thrilling and psychological. 

Frozen Tracks

Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize 2008
Frozen Tracks: A Chief Inspector Erik Winter Novel (Chief Inspector Erik Winter Novels)

From the land of the midnight sun, a compelling and dark thriller by Sweden?s master of crime fiction: The autumn gloom comes quickly on the Swedish city of Gothenburg, and for ...

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Håkan Nesser

Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti

Hakan NesserHåkan Nesser is Swedish, but currently lives in London with his wife. His early crime novels follow a antique book dealer named Van Veerteren, andtake place in a made up city called, Maardam, which is somewhere in Northern Europe. Later books follow Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti, a Swedish detective of Italian descent. Again, he seems to enjoy making up locations, since his setting Kymlinge is named after an abandoned train station. 

A teacher and author from Sweden, Håkan Nesser has won the Best Swedish Crime Novel award three times, and the Glass Key Award (for best Nordic Fiction). 

Van Veeteren Mysteries

Munster's Case: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

Intendent Münster, Inspector Van Veeteren’s right-hand man, and his beguiling colleague Ewa Moreno take center stage in the latest shocking thriller in Håkan Nesser’s internatio...

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Hour of the Wolf

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Karin Fossum

Inspector Konrad Sejer Series

Karin FossumKarin Fossum "the Queen of Norwegian Fiction" has been both Poet, and wildly successful author of the Inspector Konrad Sejer series. 

Her books are described as phychologically convincing and cumpulsively readable. Characters are developed slowly but thoroughly. She describes life in small town Norway, where everyone is entiwined with everyone else. Engaging and complex... with enough blood and violence thrown it to keep it exciting. 

She has won numerous prizes, including, the Glass Key, the Golden Dagger, a Gumshoe Award and the Los Angeles Times Book prize. 

Inspector Sejer

Norwegian Crime
Don't Look Back

Meet Inspector Sejer: smart and enigmatic, tough but fair. At the foot of the imposing Kollen Mountain lies a small, idyllic village, where neighbors know neighbors and children...

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In the Darkness: An Inspector Sejer Novel

The first ever Inspector Sejer novel, which launched Karin Fossum's career as the Norwegian Queen of Crime. Eva is walking by the river one afternoon when a body floats to the s...

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Liza Marklund

Swedish Crimewriter who collaborated with James Patterson

Liza MarklundLiza Marklund wrote 8 best selling novels crime in Sweden, before she collaborated with James Patterson for The Postcard Killers. This book shot to number one on the best seller lists (she is only the 2nd Swedish Author to do so) in August of 2010.

Annika Bengtzon the main character in her novels is a crime reporter in Stockholm.  Marklund's thrillers are a roller coaster ride with unexpected turns. 

Her works have won numerous awards in Sweden and Scandinavia, where she is incredibly well known, and a bit controversial. 



Read Liza Marklund

Red Wolf: A Novel

Beneath a dark winter sky . . . death waits patiently. A journalist is murdered in the frozen white landscape of a northern Swedish town. Annika Bengtzon, a reporter at a Stockh...

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The Postcard Killers

NYPD detective Jacob Kanon is on a tour of Europe's most gorgeous cities. But the sights aren't what draw him - he sees each museum, each cathedral, and each café through the ey...

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The Perfect Place for a Mystery
Aurora Borealis over Sandvannet Lake in Troms County, Norway

Have I Got You Interested in Nordic Noir?

Updated: 10/11/2013, MaggiePowell
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MaggiePowell on 01/16/2014

Thanks..... I've been really enjoying reading these books, I hope you'll give them a try

Sheri_Oz on 01/14/2014

What a fascinating collection of authors.

MaggiePowell on 07/27/2013

I've been plowing through the Henning Mankell this summer. It's great stuff. Different than the US mysteries.

marciag on 07/27/2013

I love this type of crime fiction both to read and to watch as TV series (the original The Killing was grand, much better than the US TV series made afterwards).

Oh and the Jo Nesbo books are some of my favorites too.

EliasZanetti on 06/29/2013

Great article, Maggie. Haven't read all the authors you list here but I like very much some of the film adaptations and Scandinavian cinema in general.

chefkeem on 06/29/2013

Having devoured (almost) all of Jo Nesbo, I think I'll tackle the "Wallander" series next.

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