Nordic women crime writers: poll result

Posted: September 12, 2011 in polls, Scandinavia

The result of the Nordic women crime writer poll was a close run thing, with Karin Alvtegen [Sweden] winning by one vote from Karin Fossum [Norway], with Asa Larsson and Maj Sjowall [both Sweden] two votes back.


Both Karin Alvtegen, and Karin Fossum, write a deeper psychological style crime fiction in which the perpetrator’s motives, and the impact of a crime on victims, relatives, accomplices and witnesses play a bigger part than the whodunnit  factor. I suppose you could compare their style with Ruth Rendell’s non-Wexford stories? Have I made the correct comparison?

Do women write this type of story better than male writers? Or is that too simplistic a view?

Do women readers prefer Karin Alvtegen, and men prefer Stieg Larsson? Do women prefer Karin Fossum, and men prefer Jo Nesbo? Do you prefer thrillers, psychological suspense, or police procedurals? What is more important to you; clever plots, character development, creating an atmosphere or the quality of the writing? The problem with this sort of  poll is that sometimes it raises more questions than it provides answers. 

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – It does, indeed, raise a lot of questions. For me, quality of the plot and the characters is most important. Then writing quality. I wouldn’t say I have a strong preference for police procedurals, but I do like them better than I like thrillers, unless the thriller is very well-done. Maybe I’m just getting too old for my heart to race that fast …. ;-).

  2. Maxine says:

    I think Inger F may have garnered more votes if her books were more widely available as she writes in a similar vein but is published mainly by a very small us press. Hard to choose among your factors which is “most” important!

  3. Tim says:

    I’m not sure about the validity of including Maj Sjowall … it would be difficult to disentangle her writing from that of Wahloo.

    BTW, I didn’t see the poll, but I would have voted for one of the two Karins, even though I’m a man 😉

  4. Great questions. I don´t prefer female writers (e.g. Karin Alvtegen is not really my taste), but I prefer psychological suspense to thrillers. So in the perfect crime story I expect plot, characters, setting and atmosphere to be of high quality whereas I don´t care for many of the dramatic tricks used in certain thrillers (many deaths, extra violence, car chases, cruel murder methods etc).

  5. Philip Young says:

    I wonder who would have come top if people had been allowed to vote for three?

  6. Bernadette says:

    questions indeed…like who is the “other” and why haven’t I read more crime fiction by Nordic women? I voted for the other Larsson and that was before I’d read UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST which is my favourite of hers. I don’t think I have a preference for any gender of writer (though am re-thinking this based on a fascinating speech I just listened to which suggested our gender biases are subconscious) but I guess I am more interested in the why of things…and the impacts on all and sundry of various events, no idea if women do this better than men though (Martin Edwards is one writer who comes to mind who manages to incorporate this very well into what might appear at first to be bog-standard police procedurals…but I find his Lake District series always has some essence of what has led people to become killers and a more general sense of the long term impacts on people of the decisions they or others have made). I no longer have much of a preference for sub-genre…I’ve learned to like pretty much the whole gamut of cime fiction (with the exception of American 40’s and 50’s noir which is still just too damned mysoginist for me) and can find examples of the sorts of things that interest me across the board.

  7. kathy d. says:

    I can’t generalize too much about this topic. However, I can say that Alvtegen is not my cup of tea and not Fossum really, although I’m willing to give both another chance. Psychological suspense is not my favorite genre, although I do like good character development.
    I devour the Helene Turston Irene Huss books, like them a lot — characters, plots, writing style.
    I enjoy Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s books, although I am still waiting for my library to get Ashes to Dust, which perhaps is a pipe dream. Asa Larsson’s are fine, although I dread another brutal attack upon poor Rebecka Martinsson. I look forward to her fourth book, again a library hassle here.
    And, of course, I adore the Maj Sjowall/Per Wahloo series, in which each book is a gem, like good dessert.
    I enjoyed Red Wolf, and will read more by Lisa Marklund in this series, although it’s not one for relaxing late at night with tea. It’s an up-all-night page turner type of read.
    My own observations are that women write better books about women protagonists, and — with some exceptions — use less gratuitous violence and brutality against women and children. And, of course, the misogyny isn’t there.

  8. Norman says:

    Thanks to you all for your comments. I will have to digest all of this for later, as the new gas boiler is still being installed and the electricians are trying to demolish the house to connect cable to the water tank.
    It does remind me of the time I had a perfectly functioning old compressor that was illegal under modern regulations. As a law abiding citizen I had it replaced with a brand new one supplied with numerous safety certificates which proceeded to catch fire the first day it was in use. And the brand new sterilizer that exploded in the surgery, lucky I had a safety certificate!

    I would expect women to write better books about women protagonists, but that Alessandro Perissinotto in Blood Sisters did a very good job with his heroine Anna Pavesi. More later if I have power…..

  9. kathy d. says:

    If I can find Blood Sisters at the library or at some future time in paperback and used, I’ll read it.
    However, the budget is tight and since the library isn’t buying many books, especially global mysteries, every purchase has to be essential to my well-being — and satisfy my global mystery habit.

  10. Keishon says:

    Sorry I missed this poll and the answers are quite interesting. I am surprised by Karin Alvtegen being a favorite as I can’t get into her stuff but I am willing to give her one more shot and I am currently reading Karin Fossum right now and I love her.

  11. Norman says:

    Keishon. I did find Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal difficult to get into at first. Then I read Shadow [nominated for CWA International] and Missing [winner of the Nordic Glass Key] and they were very good reads. I am glad you like Karin Fossum, I had a little chat with her at Crime Fest 2008 in Bristol, and she is a charming lady.

  12. Barb Pierce says:

    I wish I would have known about this poll–I would have voted for Anne Holt–I love the way she combines domesticity with crime solving. I also love Inger Frimansson; Justine Dalvik is one of my favorite characters. I am also a big fan of Asa Larsson & Helene Tursten. I was very disappointed in Bad Intentions, Karin Fossum’s latest–it seemed very thin and James Patterson-ish somehow.

  13. kathy d. says:

    I only read The Indian Bride by Fossum and it wasn’t my thing really, although I’ve seen interviews with her and I like her and what she has to say.
    And I only read Alvetgen’s Missing and that wasn’t my cup of tea. I have to like a protagonist or else the fun goes out of the reading. I need to care about what they are doing and what will happen to them so that I can’t wait to pick up a book if I’m temporarily doing something else. I’ll try again with Shadow if the library has it.
    I am rather perturbed as right now the library does not have Asa Larsson’s new book or even Ashes to Dust by Sigurdardottir or Denise MIna’s newest book or Elly Griffiths
    or Anne Holt’s, not even 1222 which I want to read. So my choices of the Nordic women writers is limited as even one Scottish and one English writer.

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