Archive for July 22, 2011

Thanks to a tweet from Karen of Euro Crime for the information that the 2011 CWA International Dagger was won by Three Seconds by Borge Hellstrom and Anders Roslund.

You can read my review here.

Although I did not think Three Seconds would win the CWA International Dagger I did pick it as one of my five best Euro Crime reads of 2010.

Barry Forshaw, whose latest book, Death in a Cold Climate: Scandinavian Crime Fiction will be released in early 2012, was recently interviewed for the Kirkus Review by Jeff Kingston Pierce. When asked for reasons for the sudden interest in Nordic crime fiction Barry commented that:

The analysis of society freighted into the novels is more forensic and detailed than in the crime fiction of virtually any other country, even within the orbit of such mordant social critics as the writers James Lee Burke [in America] and Val McDermid [in Britain].

I would disagree somewhat and say this detailed analysis of society is not restricted to Nordic crime fiction, or even novels in an American or British setting. Claudia Piniero, Ernesto Mallo [both in Argentina], Andrea Camilleri, Leonardo Sciascia, Carlo Lucarelli, Massimo Carlotto, Donna Leon [all in Italy], Deon Meyer [South Africa], Dominique Manotti [France] Yasmina Khadra [Algeria], Ken Bruen [Ireland] and Petros Markaris [Greece] are just some of the authors whose books shine a bright light on the rotten structures in the fabric of their countries. 

Nordic crime fiction has achieved great success based on the talent of a group of writers who are good storytellers, the creation of some uniquely interesting characters, and some exceptionally powerful marketing. There is also the novelty factor in that we know Italy and Argentina are not shining examples of good government, but for years the social democratic Scandinavian state has been presented to British and American observers as the ideal. In my first trip to Scandinavia back in the early 1990s I noted that even the homeless bag ladies looked prosperous, rather like Sibylla in Karin Alvtegen’s Missing. 

But even then, although Sweden’s wealth was obvious, it was possible to see the cracks in that utopia, and I discussed this in my 2009 post The Swedish Apache. Are we guilty of getting some vicarious pleasure in reading about the problems faced by the wealthy Nordics? Or do we just like well written, and translated, stories by excellent authors such as Karin Fossum, Karin Alvtegen, Liza Marklund, Hakan Nesser, Arnaldur Indridason, and Johan Theorin, who are all good examples of the best that Nordic crime fiction has to offer.

The media are again treating Nordic crime fiction rather like the flavour of the month, and frequently we don’t know whether an author is being translated because that book is very good, or whether the publisher just wants to jump on the bandwagon.  When the media interest dies down I hope that readers will not have been put off translated crime fiction as a result of the overenthusiastic marketing of some books. 

[Photo: A selection of Nordic Crime Fiction from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.]