The UK is revelling in Wallander, thanks to the BBC version of the series launching with Sideswiped. Boyd Tonkin of The Independent calls attention to other Scandinavian writers who are worth a look. Stieg Larsson’s second book in the Millenium Trilogy is due in January, a new Mari Jungstedt is coming to bookstore shelves, and Tonkin points out books by Norwegians Karin Fossum and Jo Nesbo, Icelander Arnaldur Indridason, and Finland’s Matti Joensuu, who has just had a volume of his Timo Harjunpää series re-released. He also gives a shout-out to the gifted translators who are making these works accessible to English-speaking audiences.
No reader should mentally confine the writers of the North to a life of crime. All the same, many gifted novelists have chosen to adopt the form and push its boundaries. Social satire, historical investigation, the psychology of the killer or abuser, a recurrent concern with the fate of damaged youngsters betrayed by a mighty welfare state – most readers expect more from this region than cliffhanging plots in rugged terrain.
A sign of the times? The Wallander television episode attracted six million viewers; a Britney Spears program that aired the next evening was watched by a mere 400,000.