Scandinavian Crime Fiction

the forgotten girlsI am just about finished with Sara Blaedel’s The Forgotten Girls.  As crime fiction goes, it is pretty standard fare.  What I didn’t realize until after I started reading it, however, is that Blaedel is from Denmark.  And looking back, the last several crime fiction books I’ve read have also been from that part of the world: Stieg Larsson and his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Series (Sweden); Jo Nesbø and his Detective Harry Hole series (Norway); and maybe not exactly crime fiction, but along these same lines, Herman Koch (born in the Netherlands, but having spent some time in Finland)(I recently devoured both The Dinner and Summer House With Swimming Pool. Excellent!).

Is America losing its monopoly on crime fiction?  Is there not enough crime happening here to inspire us?  What is it about Scandinavia that produces so many good writers on such dark topics?

Some of it could be the cold, dark winters.  That would make me think all kinds of dark thoughts.  Really, I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, no matter who is writing it, but I dabble.  Before The Forgotten Girls, I read (along with everyone else) The Girl on the Train.  Looks like Paula Hawkins was born and raised in Zimbabwe, and now lives in London, so I don’t know what her book would do to my theory.  London is more Western than perhaps Finland, but it’s not quite America.


My favorite crime fiction writer is Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Dark Places). She’s not only American, but grew up right here in the Midwest.  She can’t write her next book fast enough.  But there is a different feel to her books than some of these others.

I say “dark,” but that can be kind of a vague term.  Gone Girl certainly had its dark moments.  And American crime fiction can be grisly (I’m looking at you, James Ellroy; The Black Dahlia went pretty gritty).   But for me there is a similarity to the darkness in some of these other books.  The Forgotten Girls is dark in much the same way that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is dark.  A similar feel.  But maybe it’s just the particular subject matter.

escritora Gillian Flynn (foto: Heidi Jo Brady)

I have also been reading a lot of Tana French lately, and she grew up all over Europe.  I don’t know if I would call her the next Gillian Flynn (I don’t like to be stuck too closely to saying anyone writes exactly like anyone else, or lumping people together.  Everyone writes for themselves), but I enjoy their books in a similar way.

So upon further consideration, I guess I read more crime fiction than I realized.  What should I pick up next?


3 thoughts on “Scandinavian Crime Fiction

  1. I suggest you read the Adrian McKinty ‘Sean Duffy’ series which take place in Northern Ireland during the 80s.

    Philip Kerr’s ‘Bernie Guenther’ series is very good. WWII with a twist.

    There are many Irish crime fiction writers: Go through Declan Burke’s blog on the Irish:

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