Back in March 2011 I wrote a post on Jo Nesbo, probably the best known and most widely read of the Norwegian crop of crime writers. Jo had been to Dublin, and I had the pleasure of meeting him in Eason's bookshop where he was in conversation with leading Irish crime novelist John Connolly. Since then I have been meaning to revisit Norway (metaphorically speaking on this occasion, have been to Bergen, wonderful in the sun if you can get it!) and talk of some of the other, maybe less well known, Norwegian crime novelists. Then, on the 22nd July, the horrendous attacks in Oslo and Utøya that left so many dead and injured, and which are said to have changed Norway forever. And it felt somehow wrong for a time after that to write at all about crime fiction and applaud the many wonderful writers and novels coming out of Europe in general, and Norway in particular. And the very incident itself I know has impacted not alone on Norwegian society, but also on Norwegian crime writers, and it might be fair to say that their future writings will have the shadow of the Oslo/Utøya tragedy over them. In this regard you may want to read the article "How do you write crime fiction in the wake of a massacre?" that appeared in the Guardian in November 2011. And Jo Nesbo himself wrote an article in the Guardian in the wake of the tragedy that you might like to read also.
But revisit Norway I will now, as I mustn't let Anders Behring Breivik dictate how I think, what I read and what I write about here. So who in Norway, apart from Nesbo, (that I have read at least) is writing crime fiction worth your attention?
First to come to mind, is Karin Fossum (b.1954), who is responsible for the Inspector Konrad Sejer series, and who to my mind is among the best fiction crime writers on the planet. She writes so beautifully, and her focus is more often on the effects of a crime, the fallout, the why, rather than on the how and the whodunit. Books in the series so far translated are:
- Don't Look Back (1996, english transl. 2002)
- He Who Fears the Wolf (1997, english transl. 2003)
- When the Devil Holds the Candle (1998, english transl. 2004)
- Calling Out For You (aka The Indian Bride, 2000, english transl. 2005)
- Black Seconds (2002, english transl. 2007)
- The Water's Edge (2007, english transl. 2009)
- Bad Intentions (2008, english transl. 2010)
- The Caller (2009, english transl. 2011)
You can access some reviews of her books on Scandinavian Books.
So far I have only read three titles by Anne Holt (b.1958), journalist, lawyer and former government justice minister, who writes about a former Oslo detective Adam Stubø and an FBI trained profiler,Johanne Vik, in one series, and a wheelchair-bound female investigator (Hanne Wilhelmsen) in another.
Punishment (2001) Stubø/Vik series. Three abducted children, two dead and a chance that the third, 9 year old Emilie, is still alive. Involves parallel investigations into the two current cases and an old one, there maybe being a link.
1222 (2006) Wilhelmsen series. A murderer is amongst hundreds of passengers stranded in a snowbound hotel after a train derails.
Death in Oslo (2007) Stubø/Vik series. Female US President disappears on a visit to Oslo.
As you can see, I liked Punishment more than the other two, but despite my (definite!) lack of enthusiasm for the latter two, I will read the other titles by Holt in due course. Just not yet!
Gunnar Staalesen (b.1947) is the writer behind the Varg Veum series which is set in picturesque Bergen, and which have been made into film also.
The Writing on the Wall (1995, english transl. 2004) Private Detective Veum is drawn into a world of teenage prostitution and drugs, throw in a missing girl, a dead judge dressed in women's lingerie and Bergen's criminal underworld.
The Consorts of Death (2006, english transl. 2009) Much of this is by way of flashback, and is centered on Johnny Boy, whom Veum dealt with years earlier as a social worker and whose path he crosses in the present during the course of one of his investigations. (read a review in The Independent)
Unfortunately we have neither title in stock (unforgivable, I know!), but they are well worth chasing down (order via borrowbooks.ie); you won't regret the effort. Me, I keenly await the imminent arrival of At Night All Wolves are Grey, on in its way to me from Ballyfermot Library as I write. And should your appetite be wetted, soon to be published (23 Feb) is Staalesen's latest to be translated, Cold Hearts (Amazon link)!
K. O. (Kjell Ola ) Dahl (b.1958) is the author of a number of psychological thrillers set in Oslo, thrillers which have also been described as commententaries on modern Norwegian life.
The Fourth Man (2005, english transl. 2007) Detective Inspector Frank Frølich becomes obsessed with the sister of a known criminal. Things get complicated when she provides an alibi for her brother and Frølich's position becomes comprimised. This is the fifth in the Gunnarstranda/Frolich series but the first to be translated into English.
Man in the Window (2001, english transl. 2008) An old man's body is displayed in a shop window, and Gunnarstranda and Frolich must investigate the murder while dealing with their own complicated personal lives. This is the third in the Gunnarstranda/Frolich series.
Yet to read - Lethal Investments (1993, english transl. 2011) and The Last Fix (2000, english transl. 2009). A number of other titles remain to be tranlsated, so here is hoping!
Should you have accessed the Guardin articles mentioned above, you may wish to follow up with this article, again from the Guardian, When writers are confronted by a national trauma.
Enjoy your reading - me, I've just finished 'Trackers' a book by an author new to me, South African Deon Meyer, and am starting into 'The Day is Dark' by Iceland's Yrsa Sigurdardottir. More soon!