good company in the pyscho database

Peter rounds up recent news about Scandinavian crime fiction from Scandinavian sources, including the good news that Jo Nesbo will be publishing another book in the Harry Hole and the unhappy rumor that Hakan Nesser will be retiring from writing after another four books. He also points out that English-language readers will not be too bothered, given the backlog of his books yet to be translated, but still . . .

Ms Textual takes a close look at two Swedish novels, Henning Mankell’s Sidetracked and Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal. She warns in her blog sidebar that she doesn’t review books, she analyzes them, so here there be spoilers. But she has some very interesting things to say about both books, about translation, and about reading books from unfamiliar cultures. She has particularly high praise for Alvtegen and the structure of  Betrayal that she finds has “a textual integrity that is breathtaking to observe.”

ProfMike thinks Jo Nesbo’s The Redeemer rocks:

If you like your detective heroes/anti-heroes as amoral, alcoholic and contradictory, then they don’t come much more dysfunctional than Harry Hole. This is a superbly-paced thriller, bristling with political comment and whilst Hole is as disrespectful of the law as any of his adversaries, he doesn’t confuse legal justice with moral justice and no matter how low he sinks, we keep on forgiving him and rooting for him, in spite of his complete failure as a human being. There are many great Scandanavian crime fiction writers out there at the moment, butr for me, Nesbo is the one who is constantly pushing at the boundaries.

maryb (mindtraveler and appreciator – what a great job description) found Karin Alvtegen’s Missing to be a winner: “pinpoint sharp and tightly focused” with a compelling and original protagonist.

Matt Rees, a recovering journalist who writes about the reality of the Palestinian situation in the form of crime fiction, doesn’t think much of Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, saying it makes him “want to throw knives like the Swedish chef on The Muppet Show.”  Why? There’s too much of an impulse to bury the reader in infodumps and (worse yet) the Internet is used as a creaky deus ex machina that is too often a crime fiction author’s cheap way out of a crack. Linkmeister also offers his take, which is more positive.

Publisher’s Lunch offered its subscribers some insights into the dispute over Stieg Larsson’s estate and Sarah Weinman offers those of us who aren’t subscribers the highlights.  Though actually, that’s not at all the right word for it. It’s a sad tangle complicated by money.

Jonathan Segura offers a profile of Yrsa Sigurdardottir in Publishers Weekly. It provides a charming picture of Iceland – where an informal poll taken in bars (dubbed “research” but resulting in a hangover) finds that not only are her books known to Icelanders, she’s personally known to a great many of them – and some fun tidbits, such as this take on her prep for Last Rituals: “Yrsa ordered witchcraft books from Amazon.com. Now, she gets e-mails from them promoting books on torture equipment. ‘I’m in their psycho database,’ she says.”

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random round-up

Peter beat me to reviewing a new English translation of Jarkko Sipila’s Against the Wall, just published this month by Ice Cold Crime, a new small publishing house in Minnesota that promises to bring more Finnish crime fiction into English. I am about halfway through it and hope to post a review next week, but so far agree with Peter that it’s a gritty procedural that doesn’t mince words but gets on with the story of petty criminals caught up in a dangerous trade – and the team of police who track them down.

An anonymous Australian bibliophile at The Genteel Arsenal samples Swedish crime fiction after reading about the BBC Branagh version of Mankell’s series and is favorably impressed when reading Sidetracked. She(?) picks up on several features that make it unique: a vulnerable hero who is dismayed by crime and has family issues, its insight into Swedish society as the police try to come to grips with the kind of violence they think only happens in America, and complex rendering of victims and criminals.

Wilda Williams of Library Journal has an interview with Sonny Mehta, publisher of the US edition of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and Paul Bogaards, Knopf’s executive director of publicity.

Norm (aka Uriah) has now read all of the International Daggar contenders and is wondering how the judges will make their choice. He has so far winnowed Vargas and Arnaldur Indridason from the list, arguing the current nominees are not their strongest work, but is making us wait as he ponders the remaining four excellent Scandinavian contestants. Meanwhile, you can read his reviews of them all.

UPDATE: I’ve taken so long preparing this round-up that Norm has posted his hot tip. Or perhaps its a properly cold one. In any case, you must read his rationale, which manages to make all the contenders sound good.

Kerrie reviews Jo Nesbo’s Redeemer and gives it (and the translator) high marks. I especially liked this bit: “You can almost feel Nesbo building this book, layer on layer, investigating how events that took place over a decade before, can have consequences in present time.” What a great description. No wonder I love his stuff.

More on K.O. Dahl’s Last Fix from International Noir Fiction. Sounds like an unusual structure at work.

Martin Edwards talks about Hakan Nesser at his blog with the great title, Do You Write Under Your Own Name?

John Baker reviews Peter Høeg’s Borderliners, calling it “a difficult and inspiring novel, rich in meditations on the human condition.” Not exactly crime fiction, but mentioned because so many of us know the author via Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

And finally, my somewhat Scandinavian crime fiction-related news: I just signed a contract with a Finnish publisher, Nemo, who plans to publish a Finnish translation of my mystery In the Wind. I couldn’t be more pleased to have a chance to be part of the Scandinavian crime fiction scene, even if the book is set in Chicago. A great big kiitos to the Finnish reader who brought it to their attention.

“so damn Swedish, it makes your heart sing”

The Times has a meditation on Swedish crime fiction and the particular place Henning Mankell holds in it as a new television drama of Sidetracked from the BBC starring Kenneth Branagh as Wallander nears its November release and as Pyramid, a short story collection, reaches bookstore shelves.

The article includes an interview with Mankell that reveals a lot about what underpins his writing – and what he says can actually be extrapolated to much of Scaninavian crime fiction.

The Stockholm-born Henning Mankell writes Wallander as so damn Swedish, it makes your heart sing. Strindberg or Bergman could have created this man with ease. Yet he’s a huge global hit, selling about 30m books in 100 countries, translated into 40 languages. Perhaps it’s because his mission is the greatest a literary sleuth can accept: to explore the dark heart of society and, in his case, the collapse of the liberal Swedish dream. When I meet Mankell, who was a successful author before he created his gloomy gumshoe, he explains that Wallander was born in May 1989, out of a need to talk about the creeping xenophobia [Mankell] was witnessing in his home country. The first book examines the anti-immigration sentiments that boil over when an elderly couple are presumed murdered by “foreigners”.

“I had no idea this would be the start of a long journey,” Mankell says. “I was writing the first novel out of anger at what was happening in Sweden. And, since xenophobia is a crime, I needed a police officer. So the story came first, then the character. Then I realised I was creating a tool that could be used to tell stories about the situation in Sweden — and Europe — in the 1990s. The best use of that tool was to say ‘What story shall I tell?’, then put him in it.” . . .

“People see how essential the relationship between democracy and the system of justice is,” he argues. “We know that if the system of justice doesn’t work, democracy is doomed. Wallander is worried about that, and so are many people in democracies. Maybe that’s why he is so popular. I am a very radical person — as radical as when I was younger. So my books all have in common my search for understanding of the terrible world we are living in and ways to change it.”

This interest in social problems – and what it takes to confront and overcome them – infuses Scandinavian crime fiction. How intriguing that this radicalism has found such an international audience.

via Sarah Weinman.