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Scandinavian Mystery Writers: Part 3 of 3

Updated on November 20, 2011

This is the last part of a series on Scandinavian crime writers that have become more popular after the success of Stig Larsson series, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. As with all translations, the quality of the book in the new language depends on the translators interpretation of the original material.

Jo Nesbo

Norwegian Jo Nesbo took six months off, went to Australia and came back with a novel. His plots are complicated and Harry Hole is his main character. In The Redbreast, Hole is investigating arms dealers and a Nazi sympathizer is murdered. The solution travels between the past to WWII and into the future.


This husband and wife team write by researching the material, then sometimes write alternate chapters. They are considered the basis for modern Scandinavian crime fiction. Their book, The Laughing Policeman, was made into an American movie with Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern in 1973. It won the Edgar Award for the best crime novel of 1971. This book is part of their Martin Beck series. They changed crime fiction by having Beck work as part of a team which solves crimes together. This husband-wife team is considered the foundation of Scandinavian mystery novels. A London Times article listed them as number 15 in a list of the greatest all time mystery writers.

Hakan Nesser

Van Veeteren is the cynical inspector in Hakan Nesser’s books. He is a psychological criminal expert. The location is undisclosed, but somewhere in Europe. The Mind’s Eye is the first book of the series. It’s about a high school teacher that can’t remember if he killed his wife after being drunk for three days. He is locked up, but another murder makes his guilt suspect.

Johan Theorin

Johan Theorin’s books take place on the Swedish island Oland. He uses dreams as the basis for his stories and melds reality with the fantastic. He likes to focus on the reality after a crime. Echoes From The Dead deals with a six year old boy that disappeared. Twenty years later the mother receives a package with one of his sandals in it. The investigation leads to a murder spree that took place years before the child disappeared.

Helene Thursten

Helene Thursten’s novels are used as the basis for a Swedish TV series. She writes realistic crime scenes which have been called shocking. In Sweden, she is compared to P. D. James. She has written a series of novels with the main character, Inspector Irene Huss which have been the subject of the movies. The Glass Devil is about the murder of three family members in two different locations. Satanic symbols were left at the scene of the crime, but the investigation takes a different turn. There are many suspects from different walks of life. It is told from the police point of view. Thursten tells her stories in a matter of fact manner which makes the story more chilling.

Many Scandinavian crime novels tend to be psychological, and can be somewhat brutal because of that. However, they have a feeling of authenticity, and can be chilling in a different way than American crime fiction. As good as some are, they might not be pleasant, and aren’t cozies. As with any good mystery, they have plots that twist and turn as they lead the reader to the solution. Several involve police inspectors who work together with their team to solve the case as opposed to a single renegade cop going their own way. These are fun and engaging mysteries with a slightly different flavor than American mysteries.


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