c’est dommage

Hot off the Rap Sheet – Fred Vargas won the International Dagger, facing a field of Scandinavian heavyweights. She was not my front runner, but then I am a bit biased (and a bit less taken with her eccentricity than most, I suspect). Kerrie had predicted Theorin, Alvtegen, and Indridason for win, place, and show, with Vargas bringing up the rear. Stieg Larsson’s Translator, Reg Keeland, is quite hot under the collar about it, since Vargas has won three out of the past four years. (Evidently he deleted the post once he cooled off.)  It certainly doesn’t conform to the “who should win” or “who is likely to win” polls at Euro Crime. C’est la guerre.

Meanwhile, let’s catch up on reviews and news . . .

nancyo (“who never stops reading no matter what”) thinks Hakan Nesser’s Mind’s Eye is brilliant. “I can very highly recommend this one to others who enjoy Scandinavian crime fiction, and to those who have read Nesser’s other books. Mystery readers who want something different than the usual stuff out there will also enjoy this book as well.”

Martin Edwards carries on with his Scandinavian kick, reviewing Missing by Karin Alvtegen, “a tense, atmospheric and extremely readable novel, with a clever and (to the best of my knowledge) original motive. Recommended.”

Kerrie reviews The Girl Who Played with Fire and points to several other reviews and Dorte’s investigation of sources posted to her blog previously.

Peter reviews The Beast by the writing duo Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom, a distrubing book that

. . . looks into a warped abyss of the human psyche and discusses a kind of crime that to most of us is one that we fear (if we have children) and are extremely disgusted by. It also illustrates the potentially serious consequences of letting people take the law in their own hands. This is a good book, but it is tough. It is a book you will either like a lot or not like at all. There is no in between with Roslund & Hellstrom’s The Beast.

I find this very interesting because I’ve just finished their other book, Box 21, soon to be released in the US, which deals with trafficking in women and with the corruption that supports it, and am currently reading Karin Fossum’s The Water’s Edge, which deals with the same subject, pedophilia that leads to murder, but in a very understated, pscyhologically sophisticated, and thoughtful way. Quite a contrast to Roslund and Hellstrom, though both good in different ways.

Peter also reports that a new Wallander is soon to appear in 2009, Den Orolige Mannen (The Worried Man) which he describes thus:

A winter day in Sweden in 2008, a retired officer from the Swedish Navy, Håkan von Enke, disappears during his daily walk in the Lilljan forest. For Kurt Wallander this is a very personal affair – von Enke is the father in law of his daughter Linda and the grandfather of her little daughter.

And even though the case is handled by the police in Stockholm, Kurt Wallander finds himself unable to stay away from the case. And when von Enke’s widow, Louise, disappears as well, and like her husband without a trace and equally mysteriously, Wallander’s interest in the case increases even further.

As he moves back in time and starts connecting the dots, he finds that there are clues in the direction of the Cold War, political extremists on the far right, and a professional hitman from Eastern Europe. Wallander starts to suspect that he has stumbled upon a secret that lies at the core of the Swedish post World War II history.

Knopf is promoting the US release of  The Girl Who Played With Fire by involving bloggers in a contest. There are apparently dragon temporary tattoos involved. (I gave away dinosaur tattoos at my library’s birthday party for Darwin last February. They were almost as popular as the toy dinosaurs. And the cake; we definitely didn’t have enough cake to go around.) You can also “friend” Lisabeth Salander on Facebook. Somehow, I can’t imagine her wanting to collect facebook friends. And surely Ikea and Apple computers as interests suggests a doppelganger at work . . . with blond hair? Not sure what to make of this, but I think I will stick to friending charcters within their books for now.

Nesser say Nesser (plus a few more links)

Marilyn Stasio’s comments on the Branagh Wallander (including Branagh’s comments on his version of Wallander and some quotes from Mankell hismelf) are interesting.

Mr. Branagh admires the mournful cops in Swedish, Icelandic and Norwegian crime novels for tackling the big social problems that globalization has created in their countries and in other supposedly stable governments around the world. “The Wallander novels are a sort of requiem for a lost utopia, for the lost innocence of Sweden,” Mr. Branagh said in a phone interview. “Using Sweden as his inspiration he writes of the larger loss of innocence for a world that is expanding in so many ways, but is unhappier than ever.”

The Brothers Judd recommend the original Swedish television series – and, while they’re at it, the original Norwegian film Insomnia. (I totally agree with that recommendation.)

Reading Matters reviews Camilla Lackberg’s The Preacher, finding it generally well-done, though the domestic stuff gets a bit cloying at time (and at 400+ pages could have been trimmed).

Maxine has no reservations about recommending Hakan Nesser’s Mind’s Eye: “The plot is simple yet powerful; elemental themes are involved; there is lots of droll humour and neat touches; the solution is satisfying; and one is left hoping for more.”

Norm (aka Uriah) of Crime Scraps also likes Nesser’s The Return. I like the way he blends the very black humour into the police procedural format, and that reminds me a lot of the Martin Beck series.”

There’s a brief review in the Times of Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark as well – hat tip to Maxine for the link. “The laconic, cynical Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is in the general mould of Northern European coppers, though not as troubled as many . . . A novel with superior plot and characters.”

And finally, DJ reviews Helene Tursten’s The Man With the Little Face – which she thinks is good so long as it stays in Sweden; the action moving to Spain is less plausible. Sadly, it hasn’t been translated into English and may not be now that Soho has dropped Tursten from their list.

Exotic?

I guess it all depends on your perspective. Scandinavian crime fiction to me seems very solid, down-to-earth, and insightful about the everyday. But at least Joan Smith of the Times (London) thinks they’re good. In a round-up of five crime fiction novels set outside the UK, she includes Arnaldur Indridason, Henning Mankell, and Hakan Nesser. A sampling:

Iceland is famous for stunning scenery, collapsing banks and now a world-class crime writer called Arnaldur Indridason. His novels feature a detective who rivals Henning Mankell’s Inspector Wallander when it comes to gloomy introspection, but his plots and layering of past and present are hauntingly original. . . .

. . . The idea behind this collection of Wallander stories is brilliant but simple: it consists of Wallander’s earliest cases, beginning with a period in his life when he was still in uniform. . . . As well as filling in gaps in Wallander’s biography, the book reveals Mankell’s sense that something has gone wrong in Sweden’s model social democracy and identifies some of the causes of the malaise. . . .

The Mind’s Eye by Hakan Nesser (Macmillan £16.99, translated by Laurie Thompson) is a psychological thriller in a class of its own. . . . This stunning novel by one of Sweden’s foremost crime writers might have been written as a script for Alfred Hitchcock.

Also recommended: Teresa Solana’s A Not So Perfect Crime, Catherine Sampson’s The Slaughter Pavilion, Aly Monroe’s The Maze of Cadiz, and PJ Brooke’s Blood Wedding.

Wait, that’s more than five. So maybe five are exotic and . . . well, never mind. They all sound worth reading.