reviews and resolutions

Karen reviews Death in Oslo by Anne Holt at that magnificent site, Euro Crime. It sounds good, in spite of a somewhat annoying lead character and one plot-driven bit of mind-lapse. “My enjoyment of this series increases with every book and I hope the fourth book, now out in Norwegian, will reach us in English soon” Karen writes. “Also the intriguing character of Hanne Wilhelmsen has a fairly large role in this book and it would be lovely if the other books featuring her were to be translated into English at some point.” I’ll second that. She sounds much more interesting than another (yawn) profiler.

Bernadette points out an article in the mainstream press on 2009’s “bumper crop of crime fiction.” The author has good taste and highlights both Jo Nesbo’s The Redeemer and Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire. However his taste, sadly, is not matched by a grasp of geography. Back to the fourth grade for you.

Melanie whose blog is titled “It’s a Mystery … What I Should Read Next” knows one book she’s going to read as soon as possible: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. She may be standing in line a la Harry Potter the day of the release in the US. Maybe she’ll have company outside the bookstore.

The Independent takes a look at the television versions of the Wallander books and their appeal – as well as the differences between the Swedish and BBC productions.

BBC4’s decision to broadcast several episodes of the hit Swedish Wallander series has given British audiences the chance to compare and contrast Wallanders. How does the original, local, Swedish series stand up to the award-winning detective dramas starring Kenneth Branagh?

“They are quite different,” the series’ Swedish producer Ole Sondberg says. “Where they’re really different is that Branagh really focused on the dark side of the character, whereas if you see the Swedish series, we are trying to achieve more humour, more lightness, We were very afraid that the character would be too dark.”

So the Swedes are not so gloomy after all! Yet in spite of different approaches, theses popular crime stories transcend borders.

Audiences in Sweden, Britain and elsewhere, respond to Wallander because he does seem such a vulnerable and grounded figure. He is a middle-aged man whose life is always at risk of falling apart. The detective is estranged from his wife and has a tempestuous relationship with both his daughter and his elderly father.

In the wake of the success of the Wallander TV dramas and of the Stieg Larsson film adaptation, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (made by the same production company), there has been much speculation about why the world is currently so obsessed with Scandinavian crime fiction. Is it the light? Is it the long winters, or the tendency toward introspection? Is it the interior design?

The irony, as far as Ole Sondberg is concerned, is that, in the Swedish Wallander, there has been a self-conscious attempt to introduce more humour and to escape from the stereotype of gloomy Swedes. He suggests that the two series work best in very different markets. For example, the US has no interest in the Swedish Wallander whereas the much darker Branagh version has done extremely well with American audiences.

Arguably, the success of the Mankell and Larsson books isn’t really to do with Sweden at all. The themes and characters have a universality of appeal.

Though a small correction: some cable channels are running the Swedish version, as Glenn Harper can attest – he’s been reviewing Norwegian and Swedish television adaptations at International Crime Fiction. Jut not my cable provider. (Sniff.)

Finally, have you made you new year’s resolutions yet? No fear, it’s not too late to join Dorte’s Global Reading Challenge.

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3 thoughts on “reviews and resolutions

  1. At the risk of being pedantic, I’ll add that Hanne Wilhelmsen isn’t a profiler – she’s a police officer (who later leaves the force). Johanne Vik is the profiler. I liked “Death in Oslo” because she was somewhat less paranoid than in the previous books (I like her husband substantially better as a character), but you could drive a truck through the plot hole.

    On film versions, a quick straw poll around my office revealed that “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” was popular on screen (even dubbed into German), but that some of the more sadistic elements could safely have remained on the page and not blasted into our visual memories. Point relating to Sweidsh Wallander – and the non-Scandinavian Andrea Camilleri, whose Montalbano stories make for very good television films – sometimes authenticity isn’t the best way to go.

  2. Thanks, Lauren – that’s what I meant though I most likely garbled it. I haven’t read the Johanne Vik books, but I would like the Hanne Wilhelmsen books to be translated. (Greedy, moi?)

    Interesting observation about the film – I haven’t had the chance to see it, but I an imagine that the violence in the book would be more disturbing on film for me. They don’t seem too dominant in the books, but a film is quite a bit more compressed…

  3. Don’t know where else to write this on this wonderful blog, but I’ll put it here.

    I was drawn to read Stieg Larsson’s first two books (3rd isn’t in NYC yet) because of his incredible plotting which caused me to read one page and then get hooked each time.

    Lizbeth Salander came later. But by then, of course, I was in the first book, having read about
    the publishing industry, the other main character, etc.

    And I also got pulled into his social commentary.
    And then I read about his life, his ideas, his work and I liked him as a person.

    But few authors have me so immersed in their books that I stay up all night, forget everything else I have to do (well, a few others do) and when people ask me what I’m doing, I have to say that I’m reading one of Larsson’s books until I’m finished.

    When anyone asks me what is special, I have to say the plotting is incredibly clever and riveting, with interesting characters and developments. The thinking by the characters isn’t too bad either.

    The violence does get to me. I try to avoid books with a lot of violence and if I come across one, I skip parts, which I did have to do with a bit of book II; violence against women just gets to be too horrific and there’s only so much I can take–and then I enjoy Salander’s revenge.

    But then I wonder why there are no women’s groups, lawyers, anyone whom Salander could turn to for help. That’s a bit maddening that there was no one, but then again we wouldn’t have a trilogy.

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