review roundup

At Crime Scraps, Norm reviews Liza Marklund’s latest Annika Bengtzon thriller, Borderline which involves international intrigue and a hostage situation. Does it make me a bad person to be pleased that Annika’s annoying ex is a hostage? It sounds very good (and not just because Thomas is in trouble.)

At Petrona Remembered, there’s a fascinating email exchange/converation between Neil Smith and Liza Marklund about The Long Shadow and its translation and possible reception by English readers. Fascinating! And it ends on a cliffhanger . . .

The Guardian credits the popularity of Scandinavian crime for a boom in translated fiction in the UK.

Crime Fiction Lover provides a lovely tribute and overview of the Martin Beck Series written by Jeremy McGraw

At Crime Review, Tracy Johnson reviews Aren Dahl’s To the Top of the Mountain, who feels the humanity of the characters adds to their appeal.

At Reviewing the Evidence, Yvonne Klein unpacks the multiple plot strands and global locations for Jussi Alder-Olsen’s latest entry in the Carl Mørckseries, The Marco Effect, making it sound very well worth reading.

She makes a reference to an interview with the author in the Huffington Post, which is also worth a read. The author mentions that in addition to a Danish film version of the first in the series, there’s talk of a U.S. television adaptation of the characters, possibly s Hmm…

Ms. Wordopolis reviews an earlier book in Arnaldur Indridason’s Erlendur series, Voices. She finds it’s not the best in the bunch, but it’s still a favorite series. “It’s a reminder to me to spend less time on new releases and catch up on older books.” I’m so glad you feel that way!

Ms. Wordopolis also thinks the second volume of the Minnesota Trilogy, Vidar Sundstol’s Only the Dead, is a much tighter, very different sort of book from the first. I agree with her that it will be interesting to see what the third and final volume is like.

Laura Root also reviews the book at Euro Crime, finding it both unexpected and gripping. (Ditto.)

Staci Alesi (“the Book Bitch”) also reviews that book for Booklist and says though it is short – almost a novella – it’s dark, beautifully written, and suspenseful.

Jose Ignacio Esrcribano reviews (in two languages!) Arnaldur Indridason’s Strange Shores, which finishes the Erlunder series (chronologically, at least). He enjoyed it very much, as did I.

At International Noir Fiction, Glenn Harper reviews Jo Nesbo’s Police, in which Harry Hole is off stage for a good bit of the action, and speculates whether the end is really the end – or not.

Sarah Ward reviews Black Noise by Pekka Hiltunen at Crimepieces and wonders whether it qualifies as Scaninavian crime, given it’s set in London. She finds it has a promising story about social media that unfortunately goes awry, becoming quite implausible. She hopes for better next time.

She also reviews Elsebeth Egholm’s Three Dog Night, a Danish novel about a recently-released convict who moves to a remote community only to meet a prison mate who is, unfortunately, dead. She says it has a well-constructed plot with a good ending though some of the characters in the fraying community can be hard to keep straight. She’s looking forward to the sequel, coming out in the UK soon.

Karen Meek reports on hearing two Danish authors interviewed by Peter Guttridge – Elsebeth Eghholm, Lene Kaaberbol, at the Manchester Literature Festival. Lots of insight into the authors and being translated, here.

Mrs. Peabody investigates a French thriller set in Norway, Olivier Truc’s Forty Days Without Shadow, likening it to M. J.McGrath’s Edie Kiglatuk series set in the Canadian artic. It’s a “cracking debut” that illuminates nomadic Sami culture in a world with borders.  It sounds like a strong nominee for the Petrona Award. Mrs. P. links to an interesting  interview with the author.

Gary Jacobson reviews Karin Fossum’s I Can See in the Dark and finds it creepy, chilling, and effective at portraying the inner life of a very unpleasant man who is guilty of many crimes except for the one he’s accused of.

At Euro Crime, Lynn Harvey reviews Jan Costin Wagner’s Light in a Dark House, the fourth in the Finland-set series, but the first she read.  She says it stands on its own, but she’s ready to go back and read the rest. She concludes, “if you love the mystery of character as much as the mystery of crime – set in a wintry Scandinavian landscape – then I think you will savour [it] as much as I did.

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an update – with a little help from my friends

Jane at the Madison (Wisconsin) public library reviews Jussi Olsen-Adler’s Keeper of Lost Causes (published as Mercy in the UK) and says it’s “a suspenseful, sometimes darkly funny, mystery thriller that is my number one book so far this year.”

Shelf Awareness dedicates an issue of its “maximum shelf” to it as well.

NancyO reviews Arnaldur Indridason’s Outrage, finding it a good addition to the series though, with its focus on Elinborg as the detective this time, she finds the domestic bits a tad overdone.

She also reviews Arne Dahl’s Misterioso, and recommends it, though it won’t deliver edge-of-the-seat thrills so much as solidly-assembled ensemble procedural work conducted by a large cast of police. She plans to read as many in the series as she can, though it has taken ages for this first English translation to actually appear.

Glenn Harper is not mesmerized by Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist.

Peter, on the other hand, is enthusiastic about Asa Larsson’s Until Thy Wrath Be Past, the fourth book in her series about lawyer Rebecka Martinsson and Inspector Anna-Maria Mella. It also gets a thumbs up at The Bookbag, which says it’s “not strictly a police procedural, as we know pretty much what has happened from early on, but more of a psychological thriller and an intriguing mystery as to why two young people died.”

There’s an interview with Asa Larsson in The West Australian, in which she says her own past not only involves growing up in Kiruna and being a lawyer, like Rebecka Martinsson, but also a period of time involved with a fundamentalist church, which is interesting in view of the themes of her first two books.

He also gives Jarkko Sipila’s Nothing but the Truth high marks, saying it is “a very entertaining, suspenseful and excellently plotted crime fiction novel” that raises important questions about the role citizens play in criminal justice. I just recently finished this myself, and agree – review to follow soon.

Jose Ignacio Escribano thinks that Karin Fossum’s Bad Intentions is not the best of her books, but still worth a read, being disturbing, intense, and intelligent.

He also gives Arnaldur Indridason’s Voices high marks for being humane and well-written, as well as complex, dealing with the theme of stolen childhood sensitively.

Karen Meek reviews the audio version of Camilla Lackberg’s The Gallows Bird, which she feels has a rather disappointingly hole-prone plot but is nevertheless an entertaining story, nicely narrated by Eammon Riley.

Maxine Clarke thinks very highly of Johan Theorin’s third book in the Oland quartet, The Quarry, which is no doubt going to be a strong contender for the CWA’s International Dagger.

Quentin Bates has lived in Iceland, but is not an Icelander, yet makes it his fictional home. Crimeficreader (Rhian Davies) enjoyed his mystery, Frozen Out, particularly enjoying the strong female lead, ‘Gunna’ Gunnhildur Gisládottir.

Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen traveled in the opposite direction; this Danish author’s ebook mystery, The Cosy Knave, is set in Yorkshire, and has been discussed by two Australian readers, Kerrie and Bernadette, who has been in on the mystery from the start.

Bernadette also reviews Thomas Enger’s Burned, a “solid debut” that didn’t have its plot entirely under control, but has strong characters, even those that are not at all likeable.

Rohan Maitzen has a nice essay on the Martin Beck series and how it challenges those who persist in thinking crime fiction is good only when it “transcends the genre.”

Despite the persistent assumption that some literary forms are inherently more formulaic than others, all writing relies on genre markers, and “genre” itself is a notoriously unstable term, invoking categories that are both permeable and endlessly mutable. The real issue — the critical issue — is how form is used, what it enables us to discover. We shouldn’t ask whether crime fiction needs to transcend its traditional forms, but rather how those forms have evolved, and what they have made possible. . . . Sjöwall and Wahlöö are among those who show that, in the hands of visionary and capable writers, crime fiction can simply be great literature. The only transcendence required is the reader’s.

Norm and the new translator of the Annika Bengtzon series untangle the series order for us. It’s a bit unusual for a publisher to spring for all new translations of a previously translated work, unless you are Tolstoy. But, to stick to publishing tradition, they are giving books new titles to make it all more exciting to shop and are keeping the US and UK publications out of sync. Good to know they aren’t breaking all the rules.

Looks as if Leif G. W. Persson’s series about Evert Backstrom is destined for the American small screen.

Peter Rozovsky, always on the lookout for humor, finds some in Three Seconds. He also notes a lot of border-crossing going on in Swedish crime fiction that harkens back to the old days of the Hanseatic League.

Laura DeMarco rounds up lots of Scandinavian crime at the Cleveland Plain Dealer in a nicely detailed piece, with a sidebar on “ten essential authors.”

And finally, I’ve mentioned it before but I owe the Crime & Mystery Fiction friendfeed group, founded by Maxine Clarke, an enormous debt for finding and commenting on so many fascinating links related to the genre. Not only is it a good place to find out what’s going on, it’s inhabited by charming and well-read fans of the genre.

Three Seconds, many reviews

Three Seconds, Roslund & Hellstrom’s gritty thriller (with a slow fuse), is getting a lot of attention as it is released in the U.S. A sampler:

The Booklover loves it – though if you haven’t read it yet, the review has a bit of a spoiler (though to be honest, so does the cover description on the book).

USA Today deems it “as good if not better than Larsson’ and concludes “gun play, explosions, betrayals and the ingenious ways drugs and weapons are smuggled into prisons give this novel, Roslund & Hellström’s fifth, an eau de testosterone level that’s through the roof.” Sounds terribly Hollywood in their description.

Janet Maslin of the New York Times is uncharacteristically snarky, writing that the authors “know how to deliver the kind of stilted, world-weary verbosity that somehow quickens the pulses of this genre’s readers. Even better, they are on a first-name basis with the Seven Dwarfs of Scandinavian Noir: Guilty, Moody, Broody, Mopey, Kinky, Dreary and Anything-but-Bashful.” She admires the “devilishness” of drug-smuggling plot details, but dislikes “the tiresome, vaguely flawed character development that comes with them.”

Marilyn Stasio, crime reviewer for the Sunday New York Times Book Review, is not so dismissive, though doesn’t really say whether she thinks the book was good or not.

ABC News pronounces it “highly entertaining.’

IUBookGirl thinks that Three Seconds starts off as slowly, as did the Girl Who Keeps Being Mentioned, but just as she was wondering whether to carry on, it  kicks in with a vengeance. “Three Seconds has a smart, intricate, well-written plot that I think any thriller or crime novel fan will enjoy.”

JC Patterson, book reviewer for the Madison County, Mississippi, Herald also gives it two thumbs up. He writes, “the second half of Three Seconds is psychological suspense on a grand scale.”  T. S. O’Rourke says the same thing. Literally. Word for word. I’m confused: which of these two writers said them first?  They were both posted on January 6th. Who done it?

Publisher’s Weekly interviews the two authors, who won’t say who does what in their collaboration.

In other news  …

There’s a new website on the block, scandinaviancrimefiction.com – “your literary portal into northern deviance.” So far there is information on 15 Swedish and Norwegian authors, plus links to articles on the Nordic crime wave. There will be more to come, it seems.

Australia and New Zealand are the market for the first English translations of Danish crime fiction author Elsebeth Engholm. I wonder if the UK and US will catch up? Everyone else seems to be publishing them [pout].

Kimbofo reviews Arnaldur Indridason’s Hypothermia and says something I thought when I read the book, but couldn’t put nearly so well:

…what made this book truly work for me was the way in which Indriðason makes you genuinely feel for the victims and the parents of the missing. How he achieves this is a kind of magic, because his writing style is so understated and sparse it seems devoid of emotion. And yet, by the time you reach the last page, it’s hard not to feel a lump forming in your throat…

Kerrie reviews Sjowall and Wahloo’s The Man Who Went Up in Smoke and gives it high marks.

Lizzy Siddal, inspired by the BBC Nordic Noir documentary, reports on her reading of Mankell and Nesser, and finds Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark more enjoyable than The Pyramid (partly because she finds Wallander annoying). She’s currently reading Staalesen, so we can hope for a “part two” post.

God, Sweden sounds gruesome,” writes David Blackburn in the Spectator’s Book Blog, where he reviews the forthcoming and final volume of the Kurt Wallander series, The Troubled Man. He thinks highly of Mankell as a writer:

Mankell’s stylistic poise survives translation. His prose’s quiet brilliance is reminiscent of Coetzee’s easy precision; and there is something persuasive and seductive about both at their best. The plots aren’t too shoddy either. The descriptive passages and attentive structure provide long hits of suspense for those who won’t follow Mankell into demanding territory. Anything Steig could do; Mankell can still do better.

Martin Edwards isn’t sure he likes the Rolf Lassgard version of Kurt Wallander being broadcast on BBC, but enjoyed the episode, “The Man Who Smiled.”

Peter Rozovsky asks about Sjowall and Wahloo’s habit of featuring protagonists other than Martin Beck, and sets off an interesting conversation (as always).

Hat tip to Nordic Noir (online home for the Nordic Noir book club is organized by staff in the Department of Scandinavian Studies at University College London) for this interview in the Scotsman of Gunnar Staalesen, which I had missed. He says, of his hero, Varg Veum, “Varg is my take on Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, the holy trinity of American crime writers, who have really inspired me, particularly Chandler, whose writing I admire very much.” The character ages in real time, so he is nearing retirement of the permanent sort. Staalesen discusses the direction his possible demise might take and how it might lead to a fork in the series’ road.

And finally …

Lucky Londoners! Hakkan Nesser will be speaking at “Shadows in the Snow,” part of the Nordic Noir book club’s series of events. Mark your calenders for February 3rd, 6:30-9:00 if you are fortunate enough to attend.

so many books…

Norm (aka Uriah) reviews Red Wolf by Liza Marklund, a follow-up to The Bomber that has finally been translated. He thinks, like Maxine, that if anyone deserves the “next” nod following the Larsson success, it’s Marklund.

Norm also turns to the Martin Beck series for a pick-me-up and describes the pleasure of reading Murder at the Savoy. A quote he provides to illustrate the rule that one needs a good plot, a solid cast, and descriptions of food is making me very hungry.

Glenn Harper reviews Camilla Lackberg’s The Stonecutter and concludes that, though she is not his favorite Swedish writer, it’s well constructed, with a nice contrast between the “cozy” setting and the dark storyline.

Jose Ignacio wonders which of his Scandinavian crime fiction books to read next. The general consensus seems to be “read them all.”

Maxine reviews Harri Nykanen’s Raid and the Blackest Sheep which is now available in the UK as a Kindle e-book. She enjoyed it very much, particularly the police side of the story, though Raid is a trifle superhuman (yet still likeable).

Bev Vincent reviews the extra volume tucked into the Millennium Trilogy boxed set coming out from Knopf in time for Christmas, which appears to have some interesting material from his publisher, an editor (including e-mail exchanges between Larsson and her), and a friend and co-worker who knew him well. Only 96 pages, but worth a read. Apparently Larsson took well to being edited, only insisting on keeping the original title for the first volume, Men Who Hate Women.

In an interview with the director of the Swedish films of the trilogy, Niels Arden Oplev discusses the appeal of Lisbeth Salander.

When we screened it for the first time, during the scene where Lisbeth gets raped, you could hear a pin drop in the theater. Then when she goes and rapes him back, I swear to God it was like being in the stadium when Denmark scored in the World Cup. I didn’t know that many women could whistle like that. It was a war cry.

Mary Bor, one of the Curious Book Fans, raves about Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom, writing “neither fine writing nor solid characterisation have been sacrificed to make room for hard-hitting authenticity. The action is at times painful but always compelling; the sense of drama is superb.”

Maxine Clarke enjoyed K.O. Dahl’s The Man in the Window, which like many Norwegian novels revisits Norway’s past under German occupation. She gives the translator, Don Bartlett, high marks, too.

Translator K. E. Semmel interviews Ake Edwardson for “Art and Literature,” a blog associated with Raleigh’s Metro Magazine. It’s a good interview, which includes this:

You know, there is not any genre but crime fiction where anybody anywhere can stand up and generalize and say anything, “crime fiction is this, crime fiction is that”… Everything put into the same mass grave. A lack of nuanced perspective.

Having said that, I do believe there are a lot of bad and cynical crime writers out there who are only in it for the money. To hell with them. I have written 20 books of fiction, roughly half of them crime novels, and I will say that writing a good crime novel is about the hardest thing. It’s not in the first place the plot, though a crime novel is about the last epic still standing in contemporary fiction. No, the challenge is about the attitude of the writer: Why am I writing this, why am I writing about crime, how am I writing? You know, if the writer doesn’t put in a sound of empathy and humanism in the story, then it will only become cynical and cold entertainment . . . the simple way of the absolute and excessive evil, where the writer doesn’t take any responsibility for the writing . . . I have spent all my writing years contemplating evil, and one thing I do know is that it isn’t something in its own, like a “thing.” It is very complex behavior, and it always has to do with humans, with people. Nuances. The overall “truth” of my crime novels is that you can never escape the shadows of your past; they will track you down wherever you hide. And it’s all about human behavior.

Right now there is a kind of Klondyke-like flood of crime writing and novels around, especially from Scandinavia, and I can only hope that readers will find the good stuff and that the bad stuff will fall to the ground and turn to dust and blow away in the wind.

film and fiction in review

A quick round-up before the craziness of the fall semester starts up . . .

A graduate student in computational linguistics named Joshua points out that there is too much variety among Swedish crime writers to consider Swedish crime fiction a genre, and he offers this comparison as evidence: “in the schoolyard of Swedish crime fiction, Theorin is the studious nerd and Mankell and Larsson are the big kids.” He thinks Theorin’s books are not nearly as engaged or challenging as those that offer more social critique and are more or less harmless entertainments. (Or, to put it bluntly, “beach reads.” While I like social critique, I think Theorin’s just dandy without that element, myself.)

In a previous blog post, the blogger has very positive things to say about the film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  And they’re smart and thoughtful comments well worth reading.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (”Men Who Hate Women” in the original) is basically the perfect movie at this point in time. It’s socially conscious without being PC, it’s atmospheric but not artsy, it’s an intelligent thriller that’s neither ironic, nor overly reliant on plot twists. It’s a genre film that’s about more than genre commentary. I loved it.

I loved it because it’s slow. It doesn’t seem like it will be just at first: you’re plunged down into the middle of a libel suit with a helpful reporter narrating the setup on the evening news. But from there we see a bunch of seemingly unconnected scenes, so it’s alright. We trust they’ll get around to having all these people meet each other – and they do.

I loved it because it’s fun. The protagonist (erm, one of them) basically gets hired to solve a locked room mystery involving a bunch of rich people who live on an island. Why not? Why should we be above these things?

I loved it because it has a fetish chick. Tough bisexual biker girl hacker with nose rings and spiked collars and Black no. 1 hair. Which of us born in 1975 hasn’t wanted one of those?

I loved it because it’s graphic without being indulgent. All together now: the violence we see is realistic and in the service of a theme, not there merely for shock value.

I loved it because the characters are believable stereotypes . . . [here follows an intriguing discussion of how plausible and how enlightened – or not – the romantic relationship between Blomqvist and Salander is, and then] . . .

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo succeeds because it’s politically aware only to the extent of wanting to do the right thing, and metafictionally aware only to the extent of picking out the workable formulas and giving credit to their sources. It’s a film that shouldn’t be too hard to deconstruct, and I’m sure that’s just around the corner. But now, while it’s fresh, I’m enjoying just having enjoyed it.

Well, I must say I enjoyed the review.

Carla McKay reviews Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman for the Daily Mail and points out he’s not the next Stieg Larsson. (We knew that.) She apparently liked the book, though most of the review is a synopsis.

Keishon also reviews Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman and, while she’s an admirer of the series, feels this one is not the strongest.

Ben Hunt reviews Camilla Ceder’s Frozen Moment and says it’s a very good debut, though he advises readers to take the hype on the book jacket with a grain of salt. It’s an ably plotted story with a vivid setting and characters that are somewhat typical, but well-drawn. He also proposes a theory:

If anything defines the extraordinary and apparently relentless rise of Scandinavian fiction, for me it is these three qualities, and in particular the plotting.

It would be easy to draw cheap stereotypical conclusions about ordered minds and ordered societies producing writers with organized minds who produce impeccably plotted and well executed novels. Cheap maybe, but the more Scandinavian fiction I read the more I am drawn to this idea.

Bernadette reviews Sjowall and Wahloo’s first book in the Martin Beck series, Roseanna, and is interested to find in it so many of the elements that have become part of Scandinavian crime fiction.

Martin Beck too is realistic, perhaps a little too much so. If the phrase ‘dour Swede’ has been over-used since Scandinavian crime fiction has become flavour of the month then surely the blame must lie mostly at the feet of the rarely smiling, crowd hating, always ill, never wanting to go home Martin Beck. As a characterisation I think he’s marvelous but as a human being I’d rather not be stuck in an elevator for any great length of time with him . . .

In Roseanna the authors tackled the nature of bureaucracy, the rise of consumerism and even used the nature of the crime itself in a country that prided itself on being the kind of place where such things did not happen with a subtlety that I would dearly love to see more of in modern fiction.

Margot Kinberg also puts Roseanna “in the spotlight.”

Peter explores the “bloodthirsty femmes” of Scandinavian crime fiction: Swedish writers Karin Alvtegen, Kerstin Ekman, Inger Frimansson, Mari Jungstedt, Camilla Läckberg, Asa Larsson, Liza Marklund, and Helene Tursten; Norway’s Anne Holt and Karin Fossum; Tove Jansson (Finland) and Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Iceland).  He looks at their protagonists and finds a great deal of variety. He promises more on the subject anon . . .

CrimeFic Reader reviews Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Ashes to Dust, which (how very topical) involves a volcanic eruption, though in this case it’s to do with bodies buried for decades in ash from a massive 1970 eruption. She likes the book, but wishes the translation weren’t so Americanized.


Nordic, like the Netherlands

Maureen Corrigan annexes the Netherlands as part of the Nordic world and ponders the stylistic difference between the Martin Beck series and the Millennium Trilogy.

The Independent has a story on how publishing Stieg Larsson’s trilogy moved Quercus from small publisher to major player.

Peter raves about the fifth Annika Bengtzon mystery by Liza Marklund, Red Wolf. It sounds quite action-packed.

Maxine offers a tour of her favorite Swedish haunts, which are numerous, along with a handy listing of her reviews of books from that country.

She also reviews Hakan Nesser’s The Inspector and Silence and thinks it’s excellent, though it sounds relatively pensive as the hero contemplates doing anything but the frustrating work of detecting.

At last! Martin Edwards had teased us by mentioning an intriguing little book on the Swedish crime story. He has now returned with a report. The first Swedish crime story was by Prins Pirre in 1893; early practitioners studied Doyle, Poe, and Christie; and the author of the small tome, Bo Lundin, divides the newer folks (up to 1980) into those afflicted with “the Trenter Syndrome” (those like Stieg Trenter, a writer who used Stockholm as a backdrop) and “the ulcer syndrome” for books that, like Martin Beck, suffer from the disappointments of modern life. Thanks for the report, Martin, and may we all enjoy the ulcer syndrome without any troublesome symptoms.

Though it’s a bit BSP-ish to link to this article I wrote for Spinetinger, the closing paragraphs deal with why I think Stieg Larsson has taken a worn-out trope – violence against women – and handled it in an unusually affirming way.

filling our existential gaps

Peter Rozovsky is starting to read Sjowall and Wahloo’s Martin Beck series (though why we always consider it Beck’s series I don’t know – it has a strong ensemble cast). I predict he will enjoy the humor as well as the social criticism.

Crime Beat, the excellent South African blog, has some interesting things to say about the genre in general, and Scandinavian crime fiction in particular: “there is a mood that is pure Scandinavia in these books, a kind of existential landscape that fills some deep gap in the psyche of the international crime junky. And on top of it, Scandanavians buy more books per capita than anyone else in the world.” The author, Joe Muller, points to the essential morality of the books which are in tune with the element of redemption that Chandler located in the hero of the mean streets. He also discusses the brio of Italian crime fiction and Dutch split pea soup.

The Curious Book Fans blog has a review of Arnaldur Indridason’s Arctic Chill. The reviewer, Mary Bor, feels it’s a slight disappointment in a series that sets a very high bar. She misses the specific sense of place that sets the books apart:

This is a story that could have taken place in any European country: it doesn’t reveal anything new or surprising about how Icelanders feel about immigrants, especially at a time of financial crisis in that country. The previous books have at their core some topic that is intrinsically Iceland, perhaps based on a cultural or historical detail that roots the story firmly in Iceland and no other place.  Although Indridason does his usual fine job of depicting Iceland and, this time, what it is to live there during the long harsh winters, there was little of the essence that sets his books apart from those of other Scandinavian crime fiction writers.

It’s an interesting critique. Perhaps the fact that the setting feels like the rest of Europe actually does tell us something about Iceland – as its wave of new wealth changed its culture, some of its insular individuality behind as it joined the wider world. Personally, I thought the Icelanders’ reaction to immigrants was well depicted in this story, with people expressing their thoughts to the investigators in terms that were reserved, conflicted, full of awkward concern that the homogeneous society they had grown up with had changed, but either too fair-minded or too cautious to express resentment openly. I liked the shades and nuances of race relations painted here in something other than black and white.

Attitudes and demographics have likely shifted in response to the little country’s massive financial meltdown, but that happened after this book was written, which was first published in Iceland in 2005. The year after, when I interviewed Arnaldur, he talked about this book’s themes and how the new wealth in the country was altering attitudes and lifestyles in ways that his hero, Erlendur, a fan of rugged rural landscapes, traditional cuisine, and simple living would not appreciate.  The author told me nobody could figure out where the money was coming from, just that it had made everyone want more. The story of the decade.

I can’t remember what television program I was watching when I heard an Icelander comment on the financial mess. She said that those who think of Iceland as being cautious, safety-conscious, and well-regulated as other Scandinavian countries. “We are marauders,” she said, quite seriously. I am not sure how accurate that is, but I will be interested to see how the aftereffects of this extraordinary collapse looks over the shoulders of Erlendur’s investigative team in a future volume of this series.