is this a dagger I see?

The International Dagger shortlist is out and three of the six contenders are from you-know-where.  (And oh! one of the judges is You Know Who! What an inspired choice.) Kerrie has already read the half, and gave two of them top marks. Norm’s handicapping the race at Crime Scraps and thinks two are long shots.

Karen (aka You Know Who!) points out a July 4th interview with Henning Mankell at BBC’s Open Book.

Beth at Murder by Type found that James Thompson’s Snow Angels was violent, disturbing, and includes “the repeated use of a term most Americans shun” – and she couldn’t put it down. The harsh setting and the ways Finns deal with the cold and dark provides a compelling setting, and while she averted her eyes from some bits, she concludes “this is going to be a series well worth following.”

Glenn at International Noir Fiction has a detailed review of Lief G. W. Persson’s Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End, soon to be released in the US by Pantheon, translated from the Swedish by Paul Norlen. It sounds like a cynical and sometimes comical book about cold war politics with a side of misogyny. (I will be reviewing it myself by the end of summer, which is when it’s due for release.)

Steig Larrson’s biographer, Barry Forshaw, reports on a panel at the Swedish ambassador’s residence in which he asked Hakan Nesser and Johann Theorin about Larsson’s picture of modern Sweden as a country riddled with corruption and high-level conspiracies rather than the socially equitable, sexually unfettered, and rather earnest place that most non-Swedes imagined before reading the Millennium Trilogy.

“Larsson’s is not really the Sweden I know,” said Håkan Nesser. ‘But if you dig deep it gets very dark sooner or later. On any soil, in any country.” So is Nesser unsympathetic to Larsson’s paranoid view of Sweden? “No,I’d say that Stieg wrote with a certain poetic licence. On the other hand, he was more deeply involved with clandestine aspects of the Swedish society than I am, where the high and mighty are the worst of crooks…’ He smiles: ‘Well, it’s nice to read about conspiracy theories — it’s the poor man’s justification. It feels good to watch your rich neighbour’s fall from grace, doesn’t it?”

Johan Theorin, a more laid-back personality than Nesser, concedes that “The characters, the sexuality and the violence are, of course, over the top; as to the characters, I’ve met men whose personalities remind me a little of Mikael Blomkvist, though I have never even heard of anyone in Sweden who is similar to the fearsome Lisbeth Salander (another major character, a violent and autistic young woman). . . . We have a free press who are always hungry to expose any kind of government corruption, however small. But Stieg Larsson was an integral part of that press which constantly scrutinised the government, so perhaps he concentrated on the small misdemeanours of politicians instead of seeing that – generally — everything works quite well.’

Though Forshaw feels the critique of Sweden’s society in the trilogy is contentious among his compatriots, the writers’ diplomatic remarks seem anything but – until the end of the essay, in which Nesser says Swedes are proud of Larsson’s international success, but then, they’re also proud of Abba. (Ba da BOOM!)

9 thoughts on “is this a dagger I see?

  1. It is strange that Sweden is the only western developed country to have had two politicians assassinated in recent years; Olaf Palme in 1986, and Anna Lindh in 2003.
    One of the constant themes in the Sjowall and Wahloo books [1965-1975] is Sweden’s high suicide rate, but to outsiders the country seems to be a wealthy liberal utopia. Perhaps it is this contradiction that makes their crime fiction so fascinating.

    • I think you’re right about that, Norm – and it’s interesting to read South African crime fiction in contrast; there’s such a huge disparity between rich and poor and such a lot of violent crime. When I read Roger Smith I find it hard to carry on, sometimes, because it’s just overwhelming. Now I seem to be reading a lot of fiction set in Bangkok, where corruption is just part of life.

      It is very strange about the assassinations. Part of the shock is that it’s so unexpected – Palme didn’t go about with bodyguards, after all, and Lindh was shopping for a dress. That backdrop of peaceful ordinariness makes it all the more distressing.

  2. I don’t know if parody fits with your site. However, on my blog,, there is a link to a Nora Ephron article in the June 28 edition of the New Yorker magazine. Ephron’s article is entitled THE GIRL WHO STOLE THE UMLAUT and everyone who has read it has to stop while overcome with laughter.

    I hope anyone who looks at it enjoys it.


  3. I’ve read 5 of the 6 shortlisted books for the International Dagger award and I have to say it’s the ones from you know where that are fighting it out for top spot in my personal version of the award.

  4. Nora Ephron’s piece is hilarious. I have to say that when I read Book III of the trilogy, I could not keep track of all of the Swedish names, those at SAPO, other state agencies, those at the two publications, the bad guys, etc. I just gave up and just went with the story, who was talking to whom and doing what, instead of trying to remember. The book needed a glossary of characters!
    Am trying to read “The Ice Princess,” but gave up and am agreeing with Marilyn Stasio’s NYTBR skewering of it, especially her statement that anyone with Swedish citizenship does not automatically a writer make. I was happy to open up Indridason’s “Hypothermia.”

  5. I don’t understand it about “The Ice Princess.” I hate to sound awfully critical, but it was an interesting as my grocery list–and I gave up on reading it.
    Then I read “Hypothermia,” very well-written and understanding of human emotions, but so sad.
    At least whatever we can say of Stieg Larsson’s books (and I liked them, especially the third one), they are not full of doom, gloom and sadness. They’re full of life, energy, action.
    I was going to read “The Darkest Room,” next but need a doom-and-gloom break.
    So now to find a good balance–a Nordic book that’s well-written and yet not as downbeat. Maybe I’ll go back to Sjowall/Wahloo.
    Or I’ll try to read something else altogether.

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