some new reviews, a bit of fun, and a geography challenge

Nora Ephron wrote a hilarious (and not malicious) parody of the Girl in The New Yorker. Warning; there are spoilers, as there are in nearly every review of the second and third books. (Hat tip to Ali Karim.)

Publisher’s Weekly interviews Camilla Lackberg, whom publishers hope will appeal to fans of Lisbeth Salander. Honestly, I think that’s going to backfire with many readers. The romance in the series is highly conventional. The best they can hope is that people will enjoy Lackberg on her own terms. (A word to publicity folks: readers are not stupid – thanks, bye.)

The Ice Princess is reviewed by Verna Suit in the I Love a Mystery newsletter, and Michele Reed reviews Hornet’s Nest in the same issue. Both got thumbs up, though Verna thought The Ice Princess could have been improved if tightened up

Maxine thinks The Killer’s Art by Mari Jungstedt is the best in the Gotland-based series to date. Though there are a few plot weaknesses, they are overcome by with good characters, a well-developed glimpse into the art world, and an absorbing island setting that reminds her of the work of Johann Theorin and of Ann Cleeve’s Shetland Island quartet.

Karen asks what we think of the various covers of Johan Theorin’s The Darkest Room. Interesting conversation follows. The greatest mystery is often – what were they thinking when they chose that cover?

And finally, the debates around what qualifies as Scandinavian crime fiction have heretofore been about whether “Scandinavian” includes only Sweden, Denmark, and Norway or should include Finland and Iceland. Purists would say those are Nordic, but not Scandinavian countries. (The OED doesn’t include those fringe elements in its definition of Scandinavia and points out in the etymology that it’s all based on a mix-up, anyway; Pliny adopted Teutonic words meaning “southern end of Sweden” and “island,” so no wonder we’re confused.)

But now the dilemma is whether to include crime fiction set in Scandinavia but not written by people who are native. Is Tana French an Irish writer? She’s lived there long enough, so I think so. James Thompson, living in Finland, has written crime fiction set there, though he writes in English that has been translated into Finnish, which was how he was first published. Hmmm. And now Michael Ridpath is writing a series about an Icelandic man who emigrated to the US, become a cop, and has to lie low. He hides out in Iceland, where he gets involved in a murder, a missing ancient manuscript, and a gaggle of Lord of the Rings fanatics. Crimeficreader of It’s a Crime! (or a Mystery) finds it’s a ripping good story, enhanced by the author’s enchantment with the island and informative about the state of things since the great bank meltdown. The author’s frank explanation of why he chose to seek new shores is refreshingly honest. I guess I’ll have to call it “crime fiction with a Scandinavian setting.” Or a Nordic setting, if you’re picky.

5 thoughts on “some new reviews, a bit of fun, and a geography challenge

  1. Thanks for posting that lovely map to remind us of Sweden’s Empire in the 17th century. When we were in Stockholm we were intrigued to see that the Swedes were remembering two great disasters; the sinking of the Vasa in 1628, and the defeat by the Russians at Poltava in 1709.
    It was a long time ago, when perhaps Swedes were more self confident and not afraid to talk about failure.

  2. “But now the dilemma is whether to include crime fiction set in Scandinavia but not written by people who are native.”

    A good question. It seems to me that it’s the reading public of the nation in question that decides whether a foreign writer is producing domestic fiction. In my case, when I was first published in Finland, the press invented a new word to describe me. Suomalaisamerikkalainen. An American Finn.

    Three books later, sometimes my nationality is mentioned in reviews, most often not, and I seem to have gained acceptance as a Finnish author. I view myself as such. After twelve years in Finland, I’m out of touch with American culture, and wouldn’t know how to gear a book toward U.S. readers if I wanted to.

    Best, Jim

  3. FYI: Being on Scandinavian crime book patrol, I must inform you all that in today’s NYTBR, expert mystery analyst and writer Marilyn Stasio–the best reviewer ever–pans Camilla Lackberg’s “The Ice Princess.” Says being of Swedish citizenry doesn’t make one intrinsically a great writer. Quite a sting! (especially since this is the book next to pick up from my TBR pile)
    However, from my own humble reviews, I must say that Hakan Nesser’s “Women with Birthmark” is an excellent, creative police procedural.

  4. I must like this site, I find myself coming back to it frequently during my morning web crawl. I’ve noticed that ‘Hmmm’ is frequently written somewhere around my name here. Amuses me.

    About writing in English. 1. My Finnish grammar isn’t that good and I write slowly. I work fast in English. If I were to write my novels in Finnish, it would take me a lot longer, and I would have to spend a lot of time cleaning up and copyediting. I’ve completed four novels in three years. I already work seven days a week and don’t know where I could find the time. 2. It might be more expeditious to write in Finnish if my books were only read by a Finnish audience, but they’e sold internationally, so my choices would be to either write in Finnish and then translate to English myself, a horrible time sink, or let someone else translate to English, which seems silly, especially for this reason. English language manuscripts usually serve as the master copy for the international publishing world, and so going from Finnish to English to yet a third language would result in a further degradation of the text from the original intent. Not a good thing. So it’s better to write the master copy myself. Also, foreign rights sales are far more difficult with a Finnish manuscript that with an English MS. Most international sales of Finnish literature begin with a 15-30 page sample, not the whole MS, because it costs 5000-10,000€ to translate a whole book. A very high cost when a foreign rights department doesn’t know if it will make a sale and recoup the money. My Finnish publisher is pleased that I write in English, because it can deliver a completed MS on demand, a much better sales tool, without worrying about the quality of the translation. I work closely with the Finnish translator of my work, an unusual and favorable situation that guarantees a solid translation. So, writing my original works in English makes for happy campers all round.

    Best, Jim Thompson

  5. That “hmmm” was an honest “hmmm” – not a meaningful, raised-eyebrow “hmmm” (though I do those, too). I keep a website of Scandinavian crime fiction in English translation and am just starting to update it. I will be listing your books there, but if someone writing in English decided to set a book in Finland, but didn’t live there, I probably wouldn’t. The Ridpath book sounds fun but at this point I don’t think I’ll include it with Icelandic writers.

    I really liked the way you portrayed the small-town, slightly crazed Finns in Snow Angels – and I’m curious to know more about Aslak, the wealthy Saami.

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