Not too many years ago, it would have been hard to think of examples of Scandinavian crime fiction beyond the Martin Beck series and Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Suddenly, readers are blessed with a deluge of choices. What has led to such a renaissance of crime fiction from a part of the world not known for its criminal tendencies?
Vit Wagner has two answers. One is simple enough: Hennning Mankell. The popularity of his Kurt Wallander series – both in Sweden and abroad – made publishers recognize that there was a vast market for other writers to tap. (To dig a little deeper, Bill Ott suggests that the fall of the Iron Curtain and the subsequent wave of immigration into the Scandinavian countries set up the tensions that drive Mankell’s fiction and made it instantly accessible to audiences in the US.)
The other is bit more complicated. Wagner points to the 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, still unsolved. It left many emotionally fraught questions dangling; not just the relatively trivial “who did it?” but more complex ones about modern society and violence. According to author and critic Marie Peterson, the only literature that explored the impact of the assassination, felt deeply throughout Scandinavia, was crime fiction. As Peter Rozovsky has pointed out, Scandinavian writers are not so much interested in the solving of puzzles or the voyeuristic experience of crime, but rather in “the slow, rippling effect of a violent act on the minds, souls and social fabric of those they leave behind.” In many ways, crime fiction has taken the place of the 19th century social novel, particularly in Scandinavia.
Whatever has led to this wealth of freshly-translated fiction, readers have plenty to choose from. Reading crime fiction can give the curious reader a feeling for Scandinavian culture, society, and landscapes. This Website and companion blog are intended to help the armchair traveler on their journeys.
Entries are arranged by country. Each entry includes (when available) biographical information about the author, titles translated into English, links to Worldcat records for Swedish, UK, and US publications, translator’s name, and a selection of reviews. (Please note – your library holdings may not be reflected in the Worldcat links, since not all libraries are included and libraries may own different editions of the same work. Be sure to check your own library catalog.) To the left you’ll find a feed from blogs that pay particular attention to contemporary international crime fiction.
Start-up funding for this project was provided in 2008 with a Research, Scholarship and Creativity grant from Gustavus Adolphus College. In 2013 it was migrated to a WordPress platform. Thanks are due to Karen Meek, whose Eurocrime Website is an invaluable resource, R. Guy Erwin who kindly shared his extensive bibliography of Nordic mysteries with me, and a legion of book bloggers who continually alert me to new translations.