Over the last few months I've read several Scandi books that I haven't had time to review. So to give myself a tabula rasa here are my brief thoughts on them:
Camilla Lackberg's last two books, THE LOST BOY and BURIED ANGELS (both tr.
Tiina Nunnally) have both revolved around an island. I always enjoy Lackberg's books to a certain extent, which varies on the amount of soap-opera activities of the main characters Erica (novelist) and Patrick (police officer) and their expanding family, and the antics of Patrick's fellow police officers. Whilst THE LOST BOY was an ok read, I did guess one of the twists; the better of the two books I think, is BURIED ANGELS with its cold case locked-island mystery involving the disappearance of all but one member of a family.
I hope Jorn Lier Horst will forgive me not doing his books justice will full reviews.
In my defence I am one of the team who put CLOSED FOR WINTER and THE HUNTING DOGS (both tr. Anne Bruce) on the Petrona Award shortlists for 2014 and 2015 respectively. The Petrona Award recognises the best Scandinavian crime fiction in translation. CLOSED FOR WINTER revolves around a murder in a holiday cottage and it takes its main character Chief Inspector Wisting to Lithuania, and THE HUNTING DOGS sees Wisting suspended and suspected of falsifying evidence. Wisting is a likeable, empathetic character who has an awkward relationship with his daughter Line a journalist. Line often ends up, though in a naturalistic way, running a parallel investigation into Wisting's cases from a “news” point of view.
Kati Hiekkapelto's striking debut, THE HUMMINGBIRD (tr. David Hackston), which introduces Anna Fekete, an immigrant to Finland from the Baltic states, catapulted its way on to this year's Petrona Award shortlist. Anna has to put up with extreme prejudice from her new police colleague as they try and catch a serial killer.
The gang's all here in Arne Dahl's TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN (tr. Alice
Menzies), well after a bit. The Intercrime group, having no serious crime to deal with have been disbanded and their leader retired off. Slowly however the team finds that the investigations they're involved in separately, have a connection. I enjoyed the previous two books in the series greatly but I struggled with this one and I lost interest in the second half. I wouldn't recommend starting the series with this one but I would recommend the series overall.
Anne Holt's DEATH OF A DEMON I went straight on to THE LION'S MOUTH (both tr. Anne Bruce). Regular lead, Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen, is more of a bystander in this one as she's out of the country initially. However the murder of the Prime Minister in her office - a closed room mystery - brings Hanne home to provide unofficial support to her colleague Billy T. I love books set in the world of politics so I lapped this one up. My only reservation was the ending but I cannot expand on that!
Another 2015 Petrona Award shortlistee is REYKJAVIK NIGHTS by Arnaldur Indridason (tr. Victoria Cribb) which is a prequel to his established series and introduces the young Erlendur in his first few years at the police. He is on traffic duty and on the night shift. He investigates the death of a tramp and in addition we get to see how he meets his future wife. It should appeal to existing and new fans alike.
As with Jorn Lier Horst, I've been party to both of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's previous
two books being shortlisted for the Petrona Award: SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (tr. Philip Roughton) for 2014 and THE SILENCE OF THE SEA (tr. Victoria Cribb) for this year. In SOMEONE series character, lawyer Thora takes on the case of a young man with Down's syndrome who is accused of burning down a care home and killing five people and it is set against the backdrop of the financial crash. SILENCE has a slightly different structure with Thora not being in the book as much as usual. A yacht returns to Reykjavik with no-one on board though a family and a crew were on it when it left Portugal. Thora is hired by the grand-parents of the surviving child who did not go on the ill-fated trip to prove that the parents are dead. The narrative is split between Thora's investigations and a recounting of what happened aboard the yacht and is an extremely tense and compulsive read.
Kristina Ohlsson's THE DISAPPEARED (tr. Marlaine Delargy) the latest book in the Alex Recht/Fredrika Bergman series continues to mix the personal with the professional in a similar way to Camilla Lackberg. All the main characters go through personal trauma whilst looking into the cold case of a missing student whose body has just been found. I enjoyed this very much.
Hans Olav Lahlum's THE HUMAN FLIES (tr. Kari Dickson), also shortlisted for the 2015 Petrona Award, introduces the nice but dim Norwegian policeman K2 and his brilliant civilian sidekick Patricia who is confined to a wheelchair and rarely leaves her home. Set in Oslo in 1968, they have a locked room mystery to solve where the murderer must surely be one of the apartment block's residents, all of whom seem to have a connection to the legendary war hero victim... FLIES melds an intriguing mystery with a look into recent Norwegian history.
Gunnar Staalesen (tr. Don Bartlett). I do enjoy this series, set in Bergen, so I can't wait for the next three books in the series which are due from Orenda Press and will also be translated by Don Bartlett.