so many books, must make time

Peter, as usual, is ahead of the game and gives us an early glimpse of the fifth book in Camilla Lackberg’s series, The Hidden Child, which takes a look at wartime secrets and makes the pages turn quickly.

He also catches us up with Norwegian author Thomas Enger and his new book, Burned, which he finds fascinating, convoluted, and with a terrific ending.

Ben Martin at the Advocate has some stern things to say about crime fiction that is stooping too low – he’s quite cross about Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist and Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman.

What made Mankell and Larsson so compelling was the determination by their protagonists to master the evil. Without this moral dimension, such tales are merely horrific. . . .

The Hypnotist, by a Swedish couple writing under the pseudonym Lars Kepler, is a repellent book. Its special nightmare quality is the involvement of children in crimes of murder, kidnapping, rape and mutilation, either as victims or perpetrators. . . .

Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman, inspires similar dread . . . As the chapters proceed, the means of death grow more gruesome, the motives more obscene.

But he praises Hakan Nesser and especially Arne Dahl, whose Misterioso is finally going to be available in English. He says is “truly fine” and the first translation in a series that is a worthy successor to Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series.

Lucky Bernadette has already read Johann Theorin’s The Quarry, which is set on his favorite island, this time in the spring. She writes:

As has been the case with the previous two novels of this series I was once again enveloped by the atmosphere Theroin, ably aided by his translator Marlaine Delargy, has created here. It didn’t feel like I was just reading about the island’s slow awakening from it’s harsh winter to spring: I lived through the lengthening days, the appearance of the first butterflies, the people getting to know each other and themselves. I loved every moment of this book from its first word to its excellent closing line.

As these are seasonal books, and we’ve had three, I’m afraid we have only one more left.

Keishon, the avid mystery reader/blogger, thinks highly of Theorin’s Echoes from the Dead, saying, “I always find myself thoroughly immersed in his stories. To me Johan Theorin is a natural-born storyteller whose novels are often described as “chilling” and “atmospheric.” He has a strong authorial ‘voice.'” She also does her part to combat grade inflation, causing a bit of controversy.

Maxine Clarke reviews Arnaldur Indridason’s Outrage at Euro Crime; this ninth volume in the Erlendur series is much more about his colleague, Elinborg, who investigates a murder the old-fashioned way, teasing out every clue and learning as much as possible about the victim. As Maxine points out, procedurals that avoid technical gee-wizardry are less likely to date themselves. All around, a good mystery, though the who dunnit aspect is less successful than the overall depiction of an investigation and the people involved in it.

Peter Rozovsky reviews a dark and violent crime story – Harald’s Saga, one of those early Icelandic thrillers that (along with Ed McBain) influenced Arnaldur Indridason’s style.

In the Wall Street Journal, Tom Nolan reviews The Hypnotist, finding it (appropriately) mesmerizing and (perhaps less appropriately) grisly. Though, he concludes, when you live in the wild north “sometimes you need an ax.”

Norm reviews Camilla Ceder’s Frozen Moment at Crime Scraps and wonders if mysteries today aren’t indulging in a bit too much backstory. If the review had to be summarized in one syllable, it might be “m’eh.” Meanwhile, update your RSS feeds, as Crime Scraps has finalized its divorce from Blogger.

Elaine Simpson-Long, Opera Lover, also loves Henning Mankell’s elegaic coda for the Kurt Wallander series, The Troubled Man, though she’s sorry it’s the last one.

I find when reading Mankell’s books that the narrative style and flow is very even and balanced, no sharp, short sentences or any breaks.   The reader is gently taken along and after a while it is almost a soothing experience to read this author and this ebb and flow reflects the character of Kurt Wallander himself, it is almost hypnotic . . . A thoughtful quiet read and well worth it.

BBC’s World Book Club offers a lengthy and informative interview with Henning Mankell. Hat tip to Mediations for the link.

The Material Witness reviews Sofi Oksanen’s Purge and gives it high marks for psychological stealth and subtlety. For some reason, I hadn’t realized she’s Finnish, so belongs here (though the setting is Estonia, and there is some dispute over whether this book can properly be called crime fiction).

Barry Forshaw has a lengthy and interesting essay in The Independent  about Norwegian crime writers and their thoughts about the genre, making a brief stop on his way to publishing a book on Scandinavian crime fiction to be titled Death in a Cold Climate. Peter Rozovsky writes about it at his blog with a pun clever enough to cause toothache.

And if you haven’t had your fill of The Girl, Variety has an article about David Fincher’s US remake of the Millennium Trilogy films; all the Swedes interviewed seem to be pleased with it, where apparently Fincher has fans. They are also relieved that it hasn’t been moved from Sweden to a US setting or filmed on location in the nearest Ikea store to Hollywood.

Hang onto your wallets: the tireless sleuth, Karen Meek, has uncovered new publications coming out in August in both the UK and US markets, including some newcomers to English translation: Norwegian Jørn Lier Horst, Swedish Stefan Tegenfalk, and Finnish Monika Fagerholm (who has one other book that has been translated into English previously).

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6 thoughts on “so many books, must make time

  1. Great round-up, thank you. (And well done for your 200th post!). I do agree about this lowest common denominator effect as outlined in your excerpt about The Hypnotist and to a lesser extend The Leopard. (I think the Hypnotist is more cynically commercial whereas Nesbo does seem to be genuinely interested in these bizarre grisly aspects, and at least they don’t permeate his books but are short, self-contained passages within them so can be skipped).

    maybe the scandinavians are just following the global and depressing trend where you see all the “best sellers” in the UK anyway are books that trade on torture, desecrated bodies, slow descriptions of autopsies etc (Cornwell, Reichs, Slaughter etc) or of course the ubiquitous serial killer (usually killing identikit young women) in totally predictable stories. Either that or stories written at the level of a 5 year old but with “adult” content eg J Patterson, Baldacci et al. Let’s hope that Scandinavia keeps away from these depressing trends and sticks to good storytelling, characterisation, atmosphere and place-ism.
    (Maxine)

  2. Congratulations on your 200th post. This is a terrific website, and is always a welcome stop in the mystery world of the blogosphere.
    And all of the links posted are appreciated.
    I also hope that Nordic noir does not go the way of gristly torture, brutal murders of women and children with long descriptions of such,, or a 5th-grade reading level.
    Readers want well-written, thoughtful plots, good character development, real mysteries — whodunnits, whydunnits, satisfactory investigations and denouements.
    We, or I personally can live without the gruesomeness, involvement of children in the brutality, whatever role they play, the misogynistic assaults and descriptions.
    I do prefer to read good writing and think about characters and an investigation, the process, clues, evidence, logic, deductive reasoning, rather than be bogged down in the horror of the murders. That is a given. They’re murder mysteries.
    Sjowall and Wahloo managed to pull off good writing and characters, interesting plots, introspection, a bit of political observation — all without assaulting the reader with the gruesome crime descriptions, involvement of children, torture, etc.
    Those books are gems. We need more like those — if I had any say in this, that would be my vote.
    And I did like Nesbo’s Nemeses, Hakan Nesser’s books, and others, but I’m skipping The Hypnotist, and looking for others — outside of Indridason, whose books I covet.

  3. What I enjoy about this blog is the tremendously intelligent and knowledgeable comments I get!

    I’m currently working (or let’s face it: not working) on a book chapter comparing the Salander interpretation of “kick-ass heroine” to other tough heroines created by male authors, which has also been making me think about what makes readers tick. One book I just finished is in the MI5/Spooks mode. Character development consists mainly of her responding in dialogue to various statements with a smile or grin. The fight sequences are pages long. For what it sets out to do, it does it well (if it were a film I’d say it has good “production values”) but character development takes a back seat to action and working out of global conflicts through personal and extra-legal initiative. Morality comes of carrying out assassinations that politicians are waffling over, diplomacy being a form of corruption of what is right and true and red in tooth and nail. Another book I need to look at for this essay features a literally tortured woman who heads up a serial killer-pursuing team. Lots of “science” used to analyze lots of monstrous behavior – kind of like the science used in those “giant insect exposed to radiation sets out to destroy cities and only scientists and lots of weapons can defeat it!” of the fifties. In contrast, the rape scene that is so shocking in Dragon Tattoo is a few paragraphs long, and most of the violence is implied rather than described.

    I haven’t yet read The Hypnotist, but in an early interview of the authors, it seemed pretty clear that they were doing what Larsson said he was doing – building a retirement fund by writing something entertaining for a popular audience. But I didn’t find the trilogy to be cynically exploitive. It has all the pop culture tropes and the repurposing of references from Pippi Longstocking to Modesty Blaise to action films, but Larsson seemed to have so much fun doing it, and it’s all a little fan fictionish and unpolished because he actually respected the sources he drew on. I got the impression from that interview that “Lars Kepler” didn’t think much of this kind of literature or the people who read it, but could extract the elements of bestsellers, assemble them cleverly, and polish them to a high sheen so that they could make enough money that they could afford to write proper books. That may be an entirely unfair supposition on my part, but it colors my wary approach to this highly merchandized book.

    All a long-winded way of saying thank you for the stimulating comments. Maxine, I am probably going to run with your adjective “predictable” because I think that’s something a lot of readers want from these books. I’m also interested in the idea that Scandinavia is catching on to the promotional side of things. When I started collecting links, hardly any of these writers had websites. Now many are as media-savvy as American authors and some are obviously seeking sales. When I first met Arnaldur Indridason at the Madison (WI) Bouchercon, he was bemused when he heard writers say they devoted half their year to promotion. He couldn’t imagine it – not just the unpleasant work, but the assumptions underlying that division of labor. I loved him for not seeing me as a customer but as a reader.

  4. Just found this blog, love Nordic fiction so will be coming back here a lot (I just bookmarked you). Congrats on the 200th post.

    I enjoyed that article from the advocate you linked – thanks! 🙂

  5. Marilyn Stasio, mystery reviewer par excellence, had this to conclude about The Hypnotist in the July 24 column in the NYTBR:
    “But the dislocations in time, glib psychology and repetitious depiction of guts and gore create more discomfort than tension. For genuinely stylish sadism, stick to Stieg Larsson; for cruelty executed with true cunning, read Jo Nesbo; and if ponderous philosophizing is called for, no one can beat Henning Mankell.”

    This kind of sums it up.

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