more reviews, an interview, an interesting article, and a very busy Norm

At Reviewing the Evidence, Yvonne Klein reviews an early stand-alone thriller by Arnaldur Indridason, Operation Napoleon, just published in Canada. Though she misses Erlendur, his gloomy series hero, she finds it a decent thriller with a rewarding sense of place.

In the same issue of RTE, Larissa Kyzer reviews Ake Edwardson’s The Shadow Woman, an early entry in the Erik Winter series which she feels is not as accomplished as his later work.

Keishon reviews one of my very favorite books, Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason.  She likes it, too.

Beth reviews Henning Mankell’s The Pyramid and is impressed by the five stories that reveal Wallender’s past.

Maxine Clarke, reviewing Red Wolf by Liza Marklund at Euro Crime, finds that the long wait since we’ve had a new translation in this series has appeared has been worth it. She concludes, “I found the novel a completely absorbing read and continue to regard this series as second to none in contemporary crime writing. Annika is both a serious-minded, determined protagonist, and a brave heroine for our strange, mixed-up times.” Add another “cracking read” to the to-be-read pile!

PBS, which has been running the BBC version of Wallander in the US, has an interview with UC Berkeley professor Linda Rugg on the Scandinavian crime fiction phenomenon. She has interesting things to say about the critical role the arts play in Scandinavia’s social project to create an ideal society.

Norm, a.k.a. Uriah, finds there are three top contenders for the Swedish writer(s) of the decade based on what awards they’ve gathered. He also is sharing his thoughts as he reads Leif G. W. Persson’s long novel with a long title. He reveals who is up for the top honors among Swedish crime novels this year. And, (does he ever sleep? has he an army of Norms fanning out to investigate all things mysterious?) he reviews Rosland and Helstrom’s Three Seconds, making it compete for a slot on my TBR pile.

Finally,Joe Martin has a long and intriguing essay on the Millennium Trilogy at his blog, Peace and Pieces. A brief excerpt:

These novels strike me as being of the most serious intent: they are neither pure entertainment, nor exploitation books. Larson managed, with increasing success in these books, to become something of a real stylist, and poses a lot of provocative puzzles and paradoxes about life in these, our times. The attitudes toward women are a barometer of our progress or lack thereof.

Yet, in addition, the truth belongs to those, according to Carl Jung who can look at the shadow side. If one critic here commented that the Swedes in their apparent social paradise “Look a lot more like us” in these books – it’s not that we aren’t a society more beset by violence and hatreds than Sweden. Almost any objective sociologist would say we are. Yet the fact that these phenomena exist everywhere, and seize control of our behavior, our politics and our sense of “right conduct” in business and politics is something that cannot be denied.

dark poetry

Glenn Harper reviews Håkan Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark at International Noir Fiction.  He draws parallels between the way the author creates a complete fictional world and the themes of the book.  I can’t resist quoting him at length because his reviews are richer than dark chocolate truffles:

. . .there’s another example of “world-building” in Nesser’s newly translated Woman with Birthmark, the kind of reconstruction of reality that a killer engages in when he/she rewrites the rules of civilized society and justifies his/her actions. . . .

In spite the dark theme and philosophical overtones, the novel has the lightness of tone that is a distinctive quality of the Van Veeteren series (there is even a joke about Scandinavia, as if to indicate that the world of the novel is somewhere outside that geographic zone, in spite of the author’s Swedish background). To say more would be to spoil not so much the plot as the texture or experience of the story. But I should emphasize that, lest let my suggestion of the philosophy in the book put anyone off, the story is brisk and well told, its deeper overtones embodied in interesting characters, lively conversations, and murderous intentions.

DJ has high praise for Arnaldur Indridason’s Silence of the Grave. She says, “Den ordknappe og indadvendte hovedperson, Erlendur, har en del til fælles med Sjöwall og Wahlöös legendariske Martin Beck.” And then she kindly says it in English, too.  I too find this a real master work – a truthful and disturbing picture of domestic abuse that is also wonderfully structured and suspenseful without in any way exploiting the characters.

Peter reviews Henning Mankell’s Faceless Killers – and also finds some genealogic roots in the Martin Beck series. Since Faceless Killers is the first book in the Kurt Wallander series,  readers are provided with some background information about the main characters. Kurt Wallander is gritty and determined, newly separated from his wife and somewhat estranged from his daughter. He often drinks too much, and he has problems dealing with the interim prosecutor, who is an attractive young woman sent down from Stockholm. Perhaps it is the fact that she is pretty that is bothersome? Also, he has a somewhat strange and remomte relationship to his father, an ageing artist, who is showing the first signs of senility.” He thinks its only fault is that it ends too soon.

humor and the Scandinavian mystery

Karen Meek has a review of Hakan Nesser’s The Mind’s Eye – the first in the Van Veteeren series, but the third to be translated – at Euro Crime and points out that it’s not only slightly surreal, thanks to its fictional bouillabaisse of a setting that incorporates bits of several northern European countries, but it’s also great fun. “You can dip into almost any page and a line will make you smile.”

Often Scandinavian crime fiction is characterized as being dour and gloomy, but as Peter Rozovsky pointed out in an issue of Mystery Reader’s Journal devoted to Scandinavian crime fiction, it’s not entirely without humor. And Nesser is his exhibit A.

He also cites a scene opening Arnaldur Indridason’s Silence of the Grave in which a young medical student realizes that the object a baby is chewing on is a human bone. (Okay, it doesn’t seem all that funny – you had to be there.)

Also new on Euro Crime is Maxine Clarke’s review of Arnaldur’s The Draining Lake – and she picks up on the humorous interplay among the detectives, the smug Sigurd Oli and the self-absorbed Elinborg, all caught up in publishing a cook book while they investigate a murder from the past.