Tag Archives: Last Rituals

notes from the “stormakstiden”

The dust is just starting to settle on the whirlwind that is the semester’s start, so am taking a deep breath and combing through my alerts and blog feeds to see what I’ve been missing . . .

Quite a lot!

Ali Karim has a two part interview with Swedish authors Anders Rosland and Börge Hellström at The Rap Sheet – part one and part two. They have this to say about the climate for the genre:

Swedish publishers have for many years nurtured and treated crime fiction as a strong, independent genre … We share this ethos that the crime-fiction genre is not just “pulp.” The best crime fiction’s duty is to entertain and tell a good story, but [it should also be] imbued with knowledge and question what we see around us.

Writing crime fiction is something that we take very seriously and put our whole hearts into; it is, and should be, just as difficult and demanding as writing any other kind of novel … And when you see it like that, and those around you recognize that genre fiction is as relevant (and important) as literary fiction, then good results are entirely possible. And of course it helps that as Scandinavians, we have so much darkness, so many long dark nights, snow and cold, lack of daylight, that actually the environment is conducive to crime fiction.

In Publishing Perpectives, Lasse Winkler offers an appreciation of how Stieg Larsson’s success has provided entree to US markets for Swedish genre writers and mentions how much Swedish publishers are culling their lists, publishing more domestic crime fiction and less in translation.

Norm (aka Uriah) reckons this might just be a “stormakstiden” – a golden age for crime fiction that we might in future find dominated by Scandinavian authors.

The British version of Wallander is running in its second season on PBS in the US, and I am woefully late in letting folks know. Janet Rudolph was not so tardy in her appreciation. Kenneth Branagh speaks about his role in an interview.  Keep watching Sunday evenings between October 3 – October 17.

Bernadette has finished the Scandinavian crime fiction challenge launched by Black Sheep Dancing, and has a handy set of links to her reviews, the most recent of which is of Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast.

Geoffrey McNab interviews Henning Mankell for the Dublin Herald.

An interview with Camilla Lackberg is available at the Explore West Sweden blog. (And oh, yes, I would like to explore west Sweden.)

Glenn Harper reviews the television version of the Irene Huss series by Helene Tursten – and in the comments, there is the very good news that Soho will be publishing more of the series – yippee!

And on to reviews:

Maxine reviews Silence by Jan Costin Wagner, a German writer who lives and writes about Finland. She finds it “quietly compelling” and helpfully links to reviews by Karen Meek at Euro Crime and Norm at Crime Scraps.

Bookaholic of the Boston Book Bums reviews Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Last Rituals, “a quick read that blended the macabre with the academic.”

Martin Shaw, a bookseller in Australia, reviews Anders Rosland and Börge Hellström’s Three Seconds and calls it “stellar.”

Karen Meek reviews Postcard Killers, the collaboration between James Patterson and Liza Marklund, which has the trademarked pace uninterrupted by social commentary or much about Sweden that couldn’t fit on a . . . well, a postcard.

Carly Waito has good things to say about Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series and has a lovely photo of them, too.

Karen Russell of How Mysterious! reviews Karin Fossum’s Don’t Look Back, which she decided would be the first of many Fossums she would like to read.

Peter reviews Camilla Ceder’s Frozen Moment, which he thinks shows promise.

Now I feel a bit caught up; if I can just find a moment to read . . .

reviews, recipes, and tours

After being too busy at work to post, I have lots of links backed up to share …

Barry Forshaw reviews Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman for The Independent and calls it his most ambitious book.

What sort of issues do you expect your crime fiction to cover? If you feel that personal responsibility, cracks in the welfare state and the problems of parenthood are fair game for the crime novel, then Jo Nesbø is your man. All of these (and many more) are crammed into his weighty latest book, The Snowman.

If, however, your taste is for tough and gritty narratives with a relentlessly page-turning quality, well… Jo Nesbø is still your man. That he is able to combine the urgency of the best storytellers with a keen and intelligent engagement with social issues may well be the reason why Nesbø is shaping up to be the next big name in Scandinavian crime fiction, now that Mankell is on the point of retiring Kurt Wallander and Stieg Larsson is hors de combat.

NancyO, who blogs at The Year in Books, Reviews Box 21 and finds it a great read, but nothing like Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (as it is being marketed in the US) – rather it’s “a dark book all the way through to the last page, which actually made my blood run cold. There are no feel-good or warm fuzzy moments here, no happy endings, and you will definitely have food for thought after you’ve finished.”

The Globe and Mail has a review of Henning Mankell’s Man from Beijing. The crimes that open the book turn out to be less important to the story than “the history of Chinese enslavement in America, the course of communism in China and, in the grand scheme of things, the relationship between East and West. And in those terms, it’s a great read.”

Mack captures Camilla Lackberg’s Ice Princess and pronounces it gripping and written in a style that he enjoys.

Peter reviews Liza Marklund’s Paradise and recommends it highly. He also finds The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg very entertaining. And at another blog (Peter gets around) he also has some words of praise for Kirsten Ekman’s Blackwater.

Camilla Lackberg names her five favorite mysteries by Scandinavian writers.

Norman (aka Uriah) is intrigued by the regional accents that define differences in Scandinavian mysteries. He also has a handy list of Harry Hole videos.  And announces an award for The Leopard which, one hopes, will be translated into English eventually.

Cathy of Kittling Books is underwhelmed by Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Last Rituals but likes the lead character.

Skye isn’t reading much lately, but she enjoyed the Branagh version of Wallander is looking forward (a bit nervously) to the film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. She writes of the BBC series

…the three mysteries that make up the mini-series all take place around midsummer, so instead of suffering from a lack of light like so much Swedish crime fiction, they suffer from an, assumedly, intentional overabundance. The films seems hyper-saturated with light, and the irony, that even at the height of midsummer with light radiating from every crack, crime still abounds, is not lost.

Nicholas Wroe profiles Henning Mankell in The Guardian.

WETA has an interview with him.

J. Sydney Jones interviews Norwegian author K. O. Dahl at the “Scene of the Crime.”

At Euro Crime, Maxine reviews Lackberg’s The Stonecutter;  she also reviews Sjowall and Wahloo’s The Locked Room, and Michelle Peckham reviews Mankell’s The Man Who Smiled.

As she nears the end of the “alphabet of crime fiction,” Maxine discusses James Thompson’s Snow Angels finding things to like, but a denouement that didn’t hold up.

The Hypercrime blog rounds up several stories about Scandinavian crime fiction.

Ian MacDougal writes a lengthy review and analysis of the Millennium Trilogy for n+1, “The Man Who Blew Up the Welfare State,” (prompting the FriendFeed room to wonder when the fascination with Larsson will blow over). He writes that the trilogy has two themes: “the failure of the welfare state to do right by its people and the failure of men to do right by women.” And he tackles them with a kind of optimistic idealism.

The typical Swedish detective solves the crime but leaves intact what facilitates it—the broken institutions of the welfare state. The castle in the air, the delusion of a perfect progressive utopia, persists after the case is closed. For Larsson the story’s not over until the state’s blown up, if only in the reader’s mind.

Although there is an obvious analogy to recent American forays into the crime genre, like the HBO series The Wire, this only points to what sets Larsson apart—a particularly Scandinavian optimism that insists it’s never too late to effect real change. Larsson, unlike David Simon, doesn’t see institutional dysfunction as a tragic wheel driven around by some essential human flaw. Larsson the idealist believes that an opposing force, if applied strongly enough, can slow that wheel, if not bring it to a grinding halt.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggests some enticing recipes to go with Scandinavian crime fiction, in which too many of its heroes live on a diet of pizza.

The Times takes a Larssonized view of Stockholm. A Swedish website offers a crime-flavored tour of Sweden. And this link dates back to the blizzards that have long since melted away. A writer for the Washington Post took the Millennium Trilogy tour of Stockholm, had to buy boots for a bit of snow. Then returned home to a blizzard.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Last Rituals

A lawyer accepts a job investigating the gruesome murder of a German student who has been studying in Iceland when the students’ parents conclude the police did a slapdash job and have probably arrested the wrong man. The student was deeply interested in witchcraft and witch trials and has collected a group of students around him who have similar interests.

Though there are to date only two Icelandic mystery writers whose works have been translated into English, they could hardly be more different, at least among Scandinavian crime writers. Yrsa’s book is lighthearted, traditional in structure and cozy in tone, with lots of family background and even a bit of romance thrown in. In spite of some gruesomeness in the murder that opens the story, on the whole it’s an amiable entertainment, and fun to read, with some nice landscape included, but it doesn’t have the narrative complexity or the depth that Arnaldur Indridason’s books have. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

post-vacation review round-up

Martin Edwards has a lovely quote from Hakan Nesser on the essence of crime fiction, at his blog, Do You Write Under Your Own Name? Go read it.

Bernadette finds much to like about Camilla Lackberg’s Ice Princess.

I reviewed Inger Frimansson’s Island of the Naked Women for Reviewing the Evidence. The author delves deep into psychological suspense in a hardscrabble setting. The title sounds like a hedonistic ClubMed destination but shows a different side of traditional Scandinavian attitudes toward sex: in the old days, unmarried women who became pregnant or otherwise offended public morals were abandoned there to die of exposure.

Euro Crime finds an interesting trend – many first books in series are getting published (though maddeningly out of order) and this time it’s Ake Edwardsson’s Erik Winter series.

Crimeficreader reads Johan Theorin’s The Darkest Room. Though she isn’t planning a winter visit to Oland anytime soon, she thought the book was original and compelling.

The wonderfully original aspect of The Darkest Room is that the suspense comes from finding out what really happened from a myriad of obscure routes, with the reader not fully comprehending the extent of issues to be resolved at the outset.  The wonderfully brilliant aspect of reading The Darkest Room is the feeling of satisfaction on reaching the end and the sense of time well-spent with an author who knows how to entertain, whilst exploring the darker recesses of the mind; for The Darkest Room in Theorin’s novel is in the mind.

Rob Kitchen reviews Yrsa Sigurdarsdottir’s Last Rituals and, after weighing its strengths and weaknesses concludes it’s a “mildly enjoyable first novel, but nothing startling.”

Bookwitch takes a look at Jo Nesbo’s writing for children which sounds rather fun but nothing like the Harry Hole books.

And of course The Girl (which scored #1 on the New York Times bestseller list)  is getting a lot of attention. Here are some of the reviews:

  • January Magazine – “oddly epic love story, ultra-violent crime thriller and classic buddy novel all at once”
  • Entertainment Weekly – “another gripping, stay-up-all-night read, but it’s also a bit sloppy”
  • Philly Enquirer – “What Larsson has done is akin to enlisting two huge, enticing stars, then keeping them separated for much of the action, united only through e-mail.”
  • San Francisco Chronicle (Alan Cheuse) – “The books are so good, in fact, that I have to keep reminding myself that they are genre novels, not mainstream fiction” (ouch!)
  • Seattle Times – “The troubled, brilliant Lisbeth is unforgettable.”
  • USA Today – “Larsson makes the reader love and worry about his heroine as though she were real.”
  • Washington Post – “Here is a writer with two skills useful in entertaining readers royally: creating characters who are complex, believable and appealing even when they act against their own best interest; and parceling out information in a consistently enthralling way.”

The Seattle Times also reviews Karin Fossum’s The Water’s Edge -

The book has several sterling qualities, including a concise, crisp translation and a terrifying portrait of the fragmenting couple that discovers the body — especially the husband and his creepy fixation with the case.

AND – for bonus points – interview Reg Keeland, the Girl’s translator, who explains how “Reg” was born and how he keeps up with current Swedish slang.

a smallish smorgasbord

Steph Davies of Wheredunnit is blogging these days, and has just published an appreciation of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo’s Martin Beck series, which she reports holds up amazingly well. Previously she commented on the BBC Wallander series and wished she could join the throngs touring Wallander’s Ystad.

Maxine at Petrona makes me renew my resolve to read all of the Martin Beck series as she talks about the way the “main character” in many ways is in the background to the social panarama that takes the front stage. I’m thinking this is actually a common characteristic of Scandinavian crime fiction. Have to mull this over more . . .

Karen Meek at Euro Crime points out that Arnaldur Indridason’s Voices is set at Christmas time – though it might not be the cheeriest of stories, involving the sordid murder of a hotel Santa Claus with a long-held secret.

And Uriah at Crime Scraps says “Just when I had learned to spell Indridason along comes another fine Icelandic crime writer.” But he’s willing to add another name to his spelling skills – Yrsa Sigurdardottir, author of Last Rituals, which he recommends. And which I hope I haven’t misspelled.

And if you haven’t joined the Crime and Mystery Fiction room at FriendFeed – what are you waiting for? What a handy way to share links.

. . . And Not to Be Missed . . .

Maxine Clarke reviews Last Rituals by Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir at Euro Crime and finds it a gripping tale with an appealing heroine.

LAST RITUALS is an ‘academic mystery’: that is, the crime takes place in a university department (a student is murdered), and the solution depends on the uncovering and understanding of the victim’s research, as well as of the broader mores, religion and witchcraft in medieval Europe. Yet the book is by no means heavy-going; the opposite in fact. LAST RITUALS is an assured novel, ably translated by the late Bernard Scudder. I recommend it very highly. . . .

Thora is an attractive heroine: she’s practical, capable and intelligent as well as having a dry sense of humour and an enquiring mind. Her domestic concerns are real enough, interesting and vivid, but without dominating the book. She’s curious about everything: I particularly liked her encouragement of the pathologist who did Harald’s autopsy to describe the molecular basis of muscle contraction. The description he provides is a little gem of knowledge. Similar examples are provided economically, accurately but not intrusively throughout the book – for example when a museum curator remarks in passing: “As a rule, people don’t know anything: they can’t even tell a revenant from a poltergeist.”

Incidentally, Karen Meek, the irresistible force behind the Euro Crime site, has announced that some expat North Americans and others will now be welcomed to the fold. The site will now “include those authors, though not born in Europe, who have a strong association with European crime fiction” – such as Donna Leon. May the sun never set on Euro Crime.