Bernadette finds after reading Christian Jungersen’s The Exception that she wants to read more – though not necessarily more by that author. “This turned out to be one of those books that, for several reasons, sounded like a better idea than it turned out to be in reality. . . .” The subject of genocide, however, intrigued her enough to want to find some non-fiction on the topic.
Peter recommends The Postcard Killers, a serial-killer collaboration between James Patterson Inc. and Liza Marklund. He reports it has Patterson’s signature “blistering pace” and short sentences, and plausibility and character development take a back seat to twists and turns, but it turned out better than he anticipated.
The Economist is the latest mainstream publication to ponder the popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction. After reviewing the sales figures for Stieg Larsson’s books, the analysis asks once again “why Scandinavia?”
Three factors underpin the success of Nordic crime fiction: language, heroes and setting. Niclas Salomonsson, a literary agent who represents almost all the up and coming Scandinavian crime writers, reckons it is the style of the books, “realistic, simple and precise…and stripped of unnecessary words”, that has a lot to do with it. The plain, direct writing, devoid of metaphor, suits the genre well.
The Nordic detective is often careworn and rumpled. Mr Mankell’s Wallander is gloomy, troubled and ambivalent about his father. Mr Indridason’s Inspector Erlendur lives alone after a failed marriage, haunted by the death of his younger brother many years before in a blizzard that he survived. Mr Nesbo’s leading man, Inspector Harry Hole—often horribly drunk—is defiant of his superiors yet loyal to his favoured colleagues.
Most important is the setting. The countries that the Nordic writers call home are prosperous and organised, a “soft society” according to Mr Nesbo. But the protection offered by a cradle-to-grave welfare system hides a dark underside. As Mary Evans points out in her recent study, “The Imagination of Evil”, the best Scandinavian fiction mines the seam that connects the insiders—the rich and powerful—and the outsiders, represented by the poor, the exploited and the vulnerable. Larsson is a master at depicting the relationship between business, social hypocrisy and criminal behaviour, and his heroes do not want to be rescued through any form of conventional state intervention.
The article mentions that Leif G.W. Persson’s “Fall of the Welfare State” is due to come out in English, though no publisher, translator, or date is mentioned. The title, though, will be changed to avoid it being confused with an economics textbook.