In light of the showing of the Icelandic film 'Jar City' on BBC Four this coming Sunday night (8th May), I thought the occasion definitely warranted mention here of the wonderdful crime novels emanating from Iceland. The two principal writers responsible for ensuring Iceland a prominent place on the literary crime scene are of course Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.
Indriðason is the author of 'Jar City' (probably better known under the title 'Tainted Blood'), one in the excellent series starring Inspector Erlendur and set in and around Reykjavik. Though I would say Reykjavik is portrayed in the book as a somewhat dark and austere place, a friend assures me it is in reality far from that, and well worth a visit. I wouldn't doubt him for a moment! Erlendur has his own personal and family difficulties of course (which crime detective has not?), which only adds to the well-crafted storylines. And they are so well-written (and translated) too of course.
Other titles in the series (and to be read in this order after 'Tainted Blood') include 'Voices' , 'The Draining Lake' , Arctic Chill' , and 'Hypothermia' . The next in the series to be translated into english, 'Outrage', is due this coming June. His most recent novel translated into english is 'Operation Napoleon' , an international thriller that, though centred in modern-day Iceland, has its origins in the latter days of World War II.
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir has had three of her crime novels, starring lawyer and amateur detective Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, translated into english, and they are (in order): 'Last Rituals' (my favourite), 'My Soul to Take' (oops! not in stock, but do ask about it) and 'Ashes to Dust' (my least favourite). The next in the series is 'The Day is Dark', due out this coming July (2011). There is the inevitable sub-plot as well, based around a relationship, and the lawyer's two teenage children.
Having read all the books mentioned here, I can heartily recommend them. Never mind if I indicate a 'least favourite' amongst them; it is only by measure against the normally high standard I expect from Nordic writers, be your own judge!
Aside from Amazon being a great place to select books to read (but be sure to borrow from your library!), I can recommend the following two websites if you are looking for further guidance in selecting European or more specifically Nordic crime writers:
p.s. An author I have not yet read, but might be worth checking out, is Ólafur Ólafsson.