yes, we have more links

Matthew Seamons is not impressed by Lars Keppler’s The Hypnotist, which he finds populated by flat and unsympathetic characters. The plot is clever, but the execution, he feels, lets it down.

At January Magazine, Tony Bushbaum disagrees, saying it adds up to more than the sum of its parts, has razor-sharp writing, and will be the book everyone is talking about this summer.

NancyO splits the difference with a very reasoned and thoughtful review.

CNN interviews the authors, who are planning a series of eight books. They say they originally tried to write anonymously but were found out by the media. They also say “we really need a kind of inner calm to be able to write, so we’re actually trying hard not to think about the success. ‘The Hypnotist’ has sold to more than 36 countries and has been a best-seller wherever it’s been published.” Hmm . . . maybe you need to work on that inner calm thing.

In non-hypnotic news, Peter Rozovsky has had several posts about Scandinavian crime fiction lately at his globetrotting blog, Detectives Beyond Borders. e uses a couple of quotes from Jarkko Sipila’s Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall to introduce a question: what characteristics, if any, are common to Nordic crime fiction – and he gets lots of answers. He links to his review of The Snowman in the Philadelphia Inquirer and posts highlights of an interview he did with Jo Nesbo. And he takes some notes as he reads Harri Nykanen’s Raid and the Blackest Sheep, which he finds dark with a sprinkling of deadpan humor.

Among other mysteries, Marilyn Stasio reviews Hakan Nesser’s The Inspector and Silence, which she finds drier than most thrillers coming out of the north, with a morose and quirky hero in Van Veeteren.

Keishon reviews Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis at her blog which is (despite the name) not “just another crime fiction blog,” but a very good source of thoughtful reviews. She also recommends Johann Theorin and Arnaldur Indridason to readers who haven’t yet discovered them.

Kerri reviews Mari Jungstedt’s The Killer’s Art from her perch in paradise and finds it a bit flatter than other books in the series, but it still gets a pretty high score.

Fleur Fisher reviews The Gallows Bird and uses the occasion to unpack what it is she loves so much about Camilla Lackberg’s series and it’s “real people with real emotions.”

Maxine has early reports from Johan Theorin’s The Quarry and has made me exceedingly jealous.

Glenn Harper at International Crime Fiction reviews Mons Kallentoft’s Midwinter Sacrifice, which sounds quite unusual. Not as odd as sentient stuffed animals a la Tim Davys, but with the point of view of a corpse who apparently has not had a pleasant time of it.

Mediation’s To Be Read blog features an attempt to map Carl Mork’s Copenhagen, which has less definitive markers than Mankell’s Ystad or Larsson’s Stockholm. Still, he manages to illustrate it nicely with photos.

Stickers? We don’t need no stinking stickers, but the last one is priceless.

Lotsa Links

 

 

Oh, my – what a lot of links have been collecting in my inbox since I last rounded up reviews and articles.

 

Peter reviews The Gallows Bird, the fourth book in Camilla Lackberg’s series set in picturesque Fjällbacka, and finds it’s satisfying, if not the best in the series. He also has a look at The Tattooed Girl, a collection of essays about the Millennium Trilogy which turns out to be more interesting than it looks at first glance, being put together by someone who previously revealed the secrets of Dan Brown for obsessives who can’t get enough of their favorite books. (I am reviewing this for Reviewing the Evidence; I agree with Peter, it looked awful but has some interesting material.)

Writing in the Saudi Gazette, Susanna Tarbush reads Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy with particular interest in the Syrian immigrant who becomes the hero’s assistant, Assad.

Keith of Books and Writers found Kari Vaara, hero of James Thompson’s Snow Angels, a compelling protagonist that he hopes to see more of.

Maddy Van Hertbruggen reviews K.O.Dahl’s The Last Fix for Reviewing the Evidence and finds it well-plotted and engaging.

Keith Walters at Books and Writers likes Karin Alvtegen’s Missing and mentions there’s a film adaptation.

Jose Ignacio Escribano reviews Johann Theorin’s Echoes from the Dead – bilingually!

Keishon reviews Jo Nesbo’s The Redeemer and makes it sound so good that several commenters indicate they’ll be including Nesbo in their future reading.  (Good call, by the way.)

At Bookgasm, Mark Rose is not impressed by Lars Keppler’s The Hypnotist.

Nor is Bernadette by Roslund and Hellstrom’s Three Seconds, which she reckons would be more accurately titled 56,820 seconds. Score! (I admit, I also found the first half very slow going, and had trouble finding any characters who were sympathetic. It picked up in the second half, but likeable characters were still thin on the ground. I liked Box 21 a great deal more.)

A blogger named Susan has coined a new sub-genre: Snoir, featuring dark themes in a cold and icy setting.  Brrr.

There’s an interesting comparison of translations at To Be Read in two parts, comparing the first English translation of Liza Marklund’s Studio Sex (Studio 69) with a new one by Neil Smith, now titled Exposed. It’s quite surprising to see the variations alongside the original Swedish.

Swedish Book Review takes a look at the last Erik Winter novel, titled appropriately Den sista vintern (The Final Winter). Though Ake Edwardson has said in interviews that he is turning away from crime fiction, the reviewer, Irene Scobbie, hopes he will be tempted to continue writing about a newly-introduced character who could carry further stories.

Also in Swedish Book Review, Tom Geddes reviews Björn Larsson’s Döda poeter skriver inte kriminalromaner (Dead Poets Can’t Write Crime Fiction), a spoof on the popularity of crime fiction, including a book within the book with the title The Man Who Hated the Rich.

At the site you will also find a review of Johann Theorin’s next book, The Quarry, somewhat unusually written by Theorin’s English translator, as well as reviews of new books by Camilla Ceder and Lief G.W. Persson.

A Work in Progress reviews Camilla Ceder’s Frozen Moment and considers Ceder a writer to watch.

Maxine Clarke reports at Euro Crime that she very much enjoyed Mari Jungstedt’s The Dead of Summer, fifth in the author’s Gotland-set series. Norm also liked it quite a lot.

She wasn’t as enthusiastic about Danish author Sissel-Jo Gazan’s first foray into English translation, The Dinosaur Feather, which suffers from a surfeit of backstory but picks up in the final 200 pages.

A blogger who is reading a book a week has mixed feelings about Henning Mankell’s The White Lioness, which has interesting things to say about race and politics but strays far afield from the main character.

Kim Forrester (Kimbofo) thinks Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen, is terrific. Norm is hoping the translator is hard at work on more in the series.  Rob Kitchen also reviews the first of the Department Q series and concludes that, though it’s melodramatic and implausible in places, it’s generally a good read and just the job before a trip to Denmark. And Ali Karim, our enterprising super-fan, is interviewed at Pulp Pusher about Mercy and other books that he is excited about.

Rob also reviews Leif Davidsen’s The Serbian Dane, which he feels has good character development but not much tension.

Mrs. Peabody thinks there’s a touch of melodrama in Karin Alvtegen’s Shadow but nevertheless recommends it.

Leslie Gilbert Elman gives Camilla Lackberg a strong endorsement, recommending her to readers whose only exposure to Scandinavian crime fiction is through Stieg Larsson, whose work she doesn’t admire.

Susan White enjoyed Henning Mankell’s The Man from Beijing, now out in paperback, and reviews it for Euro Crime, where Maxine Clarke also reviews Jan Costin Wagner’s Finnish-set Winter of the Lions, recommending it for those who have already read and enjoyed Ice Moon. Mrs. Peabody fills in the gaps by reviewing the middle book in the series, Wagner’s Silence, and rates it very highly.

Darrel Squires recommends The Snowman to readers in Newfoundland and Labrador, calling it a good choice for “fans of dark, atmospheric crime fiction.” The Winnipeg Free Press reports Nesbo as “a bit annoyed” at being compared to Larsson on the cover of his latest book because he thinks their styles are different. (Also, he’s not Swedish – but I’m being picky.) And in the U.S., the Fredricksburg (Virginia) Free-Lance Star has a short and positive review of The Snowman.

Carrying this comparative nonsense to its logical extreme, The Mark proclaims Norwegian fiction is the new Swedish fiction. This is actually just a way to introduce a short video interview with Nesbo, who doesn’t say anything you don’t already know, except that Norway has a lot of serial killers (said with a straight face).

NancyO has lots of praise for Nesbo’s The Leopard, though some of it is over the top and other parts are slow-moving (“to the point where you think you might be trying to crawl through jello”). Still, she rates it her favorite in the series.

Wendy Lasser wrote at length about Nesbo at Slate a month ago. She opens her essay with speculations about the overall excellence of Scandinavian crime fiction and the way it combines cat-and-mouse detection with social critique and proposes some possible reasons for the Nordic countries’ high crime fiction rate:

Perhaps we can attribute this in part to the small size of these far northern countries, their relatively homogenous populations, their stable cultural traditions—a setting, in short, in which murders (and especially serial murders) stand out starkly and beg for analysis. Or maybe this wider focus is connected to the firmly if mildly socialist perspective of even the most conservative Scandinavian governments, a view in which individual behavior contributes to or detracts from the public welfare. Possibly the dark, cold, long winters also have a role: With those extreme alternations between everlasting night and midnight sun, the Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians may be more likely than the rest of us to reflect on the role of environment in shaping character. The citizens of these countries also seem unusually alert to their own national pasts (unlike Americans, say, for whom the mid-twentieth-century is already History), and this in turn makes them more likely to seek cause and effect in these collective historical influences. In any event, what all these factors add up to is a worldview that places the criminal at the center of a social web. This is not necessarily what makes Scandinavian mysteries addictive—that can probably be attributed to the typical thriller qualities of suspense and surprise—but it is what makes them remarkably satisfying.

She goes on to discuss the Harry Hole series and concludes that while his latest novels are compelling and fun, they are more focused on furiously-paced fun than on developing a solid story. Commenting on The Leopard, Lasser speculates that Hole’s multiple near-death experiences bespeak the author’s wish to kill him off, and “the increasingly ludicrous violence makes the plot seem like something made for TV.”

I haven’t read The Leopard yet, but I tend to see the same trajectory, finding both The Devil’s Star and The Snowman as less rewarding than the earlier books in the series, though it seems a large number of readers feel the opposite and enjoy the recent books the most.

Metro has a short interview with Henning Mankell; the most interesting bit is that he once lived in an unfurnished flat and sat on the floor, using his oven door as a desk (and the oven light as a desk lamp); that’s rather clever. Ikea should look into it.

Rick Salutin of the Toronto Star thinks about Canadian politics from a Scandinavian crime perspective – seeing a willingness to examine society, not just individual culpability.

Norm considers the features of a newly-named species, the Scandi-book fan, of the genus Chattering Classes.

The Hollywood Reporter covers the presence of three directors from Nordic countries at the Cannes film festival – all with films in non-Nordic languages. It’s not just book labels touting the Next Stieg Larsson: “Post-Millennium, everyone is hunting for the next big Nordic crime franchise.” Oh dear.

Pan Macmillan has bought rights to a novelization of the popular television series, The Killing.

And speaking of Denmark, the Copenhagen Post has a profile of several Danish writers whose work will be released in the US this year – Jussi Adler-Olsen (whose Department Q kick-off will be called The Keeper of Lost Causes in the U.S. instead of the British title Mercy; it will appear in the US in August), Sara Blædel (Call Me Princess, also in August) and the co-authors Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis (The Boy in the Suitcase, to be released in November).

Sarah Weinman has written a surprising and rather scandalous profile of Niclas Salomonsson, the incredibly young agent to most of the biggest names in Scandinavian crime fiction. Like the sordid family squabble over Stieg Larsson’s fortune, it seems particularly shocking for Sweden. You couldn’t make this stuff up – though many of his clients do something fairly close.

more tidbits from the snowy midwest

The Girl has fans in India, too.

Glenn has further dispatches from the land of Wallander television adaptations, this time of Blodsband (The Black King) – original to the small screen, not from a book. Norm (aka Uriah) also writes about the Swedish television series, saying it had a better balance of ensemble characters than the BBC version.  The Guardian has an article on the actress who played Linda Wallander and how her suicide affected the writer and the series, suggesting that the new female heroine in The Man from Beijing was created because Mankell had to stop writing about the character Johanna Sallstrom played. It’s very sad.

the man with the snake tattoo

BookPage has a review of James Thompson’s Snow Angels, saying he is a “major new talent.” Well, technically speaking, Snow Angels was his second book – just the first for this American writer to be published in the US rather than in Finnish translation at his current home in Helsinki, where three of his books have been published by Johnny Kniga. (What an intriguing name for a publisher – “kniga” is Russian for book. Johnny is … not.) I’ve just started a review copy of this book. So far, so cold. No, I meant good. But it does take place in the winter and it is very, very cold and dark. No wonder they kill each other.

More evidence that I need to learn Swedish: the Bookwitch points out an article in the  Vi (a culture magazine, part of which is available online) with a photo of the high-literary couple who have created a bestselling thriller, revealing their identities when the marketing moment was ripe. In the previous post here, Steve aka Reg Keeland (Stieg Larsson’s translator) takes issue with a claim that The Hypnotist will seize readers’ imaginations the way that the Millennium Trilogy has.  Though he reports it is a “page turner” with plenty of action, it’s “lacking in the major appeal of Stieg Larsson: a moral view.” Which is, of course, the whole point.

a snow-covered god jul post

Having gotten distracted by work, here’s a catch-up post of things that have accumulated over the past few weeks…

A blogger who “never stops reading – no matter what” has added Kjell Eriksson’s The Cruel Stars of Night to her Year in Books blog. She says “I love the way Eriksson writes and I love the slow and methodical pacing of this novel” though she takes issue with a plot turn that required the protagonist to be momentarily dimwitted. But she forgives the lapse and says she can “definitely recommend Cruel Stars of the Night to those who enjoy a really good police procedural, and to those who also enjoy psychological suspense.”

She also reviews a book from Finland written by an American who lives there (and first was published in Finnish) –James Thompson’s Snow Angels. There are some coincidences in the plot, she feels, and some of the characters are not as fleshed-out as she would like, but it has its strong points. “I was drawn in by the author’s ability to set the tone of the bleakness of life above the Arctic Circle in Finland, where it’s dark and cold and to pass the time, people have little to do other than drink. The atmosphere was so well laid out for the reader that for a time you can imagine yourself there.” This one is in my TBR so I will be reporting my reaction here before long.

Peter broods over the meaning of the brooding detective while recommending Arnaldur Indridason’s Erlendur series at Detectives Beyond Borders. As always, his blog is really a salon with many interesting comments on Scandinavians, Italians, families, and more.

The Nekkidblogger (brrrr!) predicts that The Hypnotist by “Lars Keppler” will be the next Stieg Larsson-like sensation even though Lars Keppler is actually a collaboration of two literary authors.

Lars Kepler does not exist. Huge sensation. Lars Kepler turned out to be a pseudonym for two literary authors, husband-and-wife Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, now writing under the pseudonym Lars Kepler. They have so far barely been able to sustain themselves economically by their writing. Now they wanted to make money. And in Sweden, crime fiction writers make big money. And, of course, when in Sweden, do as the Swedes. So they decided to write crime fiction, using a cool name.

The Nordic Book Blog reviews Ake Edwardson’s Death Angels which he finds a “well constructed police procedural” though less polished than the later books in the series. This was the first, though the most recent to be translated into English.

Naomi of The Drowning Machine reviews Asa Larsson’s The Black Path which she feels suffers from excessive exposition and draggy pacing. “The Black Path has atmosphere to spare, a hallmark of Swedish crime fic, and the characters are thoroughly developed. When I say thoroughly I mean to the point that the details of every character’s life, past and present, drag the pace down to NASCAR (National Association of Snail Crawling and Roundaboutation) speed. . . . An unlikely blood bath as the climax combined with what seemed a brief and pointless interjection of romance at novel’s end, all left me unmoved.” In the comment thread that follows she points out that others who read the book felt differently, but I had many of the same reservations though I was not quite so … em, expressive.

Several bloggers participating in the ABC of crime fiction meme have highlighted Scandinavian crime fiction including

I have not been playing along, but I might propose A is for Alvtegen, B for Burman, C for Camilla LackbergD for K.O. Dahl, and E for Edwardson … maybe I’ll have enough time to play in the new year. Or maybe not.

Maxine at Petrona points out that Ake Edwardson’s Sun and Shadow, Arnaldur Indridason’s Voices, and Liza Marklund’s The Bomber qualifies for Christmas Crime. Kerrie, who started both memes at her Mysteries in Paradise, scored both with Voices, using it for both the letter I and for Christmas Crime.

More BBC Wallander is on the way.

Those in the UK NZ get to see the Girl on film starting on boxing day, or so this site claims (when I read it properly). Ali has already gotten a sneak peek as well he should, being the world number one fan (GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO). So did Craig Sisterton in New Zealand. Those of us in the US can twiddle our thumbs. We’re used to it.

Americans, however, will be resposible for a remake. This is not a very good form of revenge.

A Danish film journal has an analysis of the gender roles in the films which, fortunately for us unschooled yanks, is in English. The authors contrast the treatment of gender in the books with the depiction in the films.

Our main argument is that the adaptation from novel to film involves an alteration of the gender representations in the two main characters, and that this alteration corresponds to the genre-specific and media-specific conditions associated respectively with the genre thriller versus crime fiction and with the format of the film versus that of the novel. In examining these differences in relation to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we draw on the fact that gender is a central issue in Nordic crime fiction as bestseller and cultural commodity.

Basically, the authors argue that the gender relationships are simplified in the film as it is condensed for the shorter storytelling format. When I finally get a chance to see the films, I’ll see if I agree.

Finally, glædelig jul, Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta, gleðileg jól og farsælt komandi ár, god jul og godt nytt år, and god jul och gott nytt år! I leave you with a photo from Minnesota of King Gustav Adolph enjoying our white Christmas….

"... I seem to have something in my eye..."