coming soon, or recently arrived

Catching up on a backlog of reviews and other things … I thought this time I would be geographically organized.

Nordic countries in general

Break out your wallets; Simon Clarke provides a tempting list of recent and forthcoming translations.

Norm has a poll going at Crime Scraps on which women crime writers from Nordic countries are most popular, his first entry in the Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary book bloggers’ challenge.

Denmark

At Crime Segments, NancyO reviews Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Keeper of Lost Causes  (apa Mercy), which she enjoyed tremendously, particularly for its characters and all-around originality, concluding it’s “amazingly good.”

More praise for Adler-Olsen in the Winnepeg Free Press, with a shout-out to the translator.

Dorte offers some intriguing commentary on the background of a book in the Department Q series, not yet translated into English. Fascinating stuff, and something to look forward to.

Violette Severin visits Denmark on a Europass challenge.

Finland

I review Jarkko Sipila’s Nothing but the Truth, which I enjoyed quite a lot. Maxine reviews the author’s Against the Wall and finds it a pretty good police procedural.

Maxine also reviews Sofi Oksanen’s Purge and sparks off a debate about whether it should be considered crime fiction or not. The paperback release is trending that way, though it’s more of a historical saga. Whatever it is, she found it extremely good.

—– not a thing for Iceland at the moment, sorry —–

Norway

At How Mysterious! Karen Miller Russell finds her patience with Karin Fossum running out, being particularly unhappy with The Water’s Edge (which I liked a great deal). The author’s focus on crimes involving children has made her lose interest – though Maxine, in a comment, may have coaxed her to give The Caller a try.

Jose Ignacio Escribano takes a look at K. O. Dahl’s police procedural series featuring Gunnarstand and Frolich to remind himself that Lethal Investments will be released soon.

Sweden

Jose Ignacio Escribano reviews Sjowall and Wahloo’s The Locked Room (in both English and Spanish), the eighth in the Martin Beck series.

Lynn Harvey reviews Camilla Lackberg’s The Preacher at Euro Crime, enjoying the contrast between the main character’s loving home life and the convoluted (perhaps too convoluted) troubles of the family embroiled in tragedy. Incidentally, Philip reports in the FriendFeed Crime and Mystery Fiction room that Lackberg is getting involved in a television series and feature films and will be slowing down her book publishing schedule as a result.

Bibliojunkie (who is not looking for a cure) is impressed by Hakan Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark, saying it’s “very well constructed and elegantly told” in a thorough and insightful review.

The Sunday Business Post (Ireland) has a lengthy and interesting interview slash profile of Liza Marklund exploring her motivation as a writer and a politically-involved journalist and documentarian.  And oh, look who wrote the interview – Declan Burke! No wonder it’s so well done.

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at the Finnish line – and more

Glenn Harper reviews Matti Joensuu’s To Steal Her Love at International Noir Fiction, pointing out that the vagaries of translation have really hampered access to this Finnish writer’s work: “of Joensuu’s 10 novels, we have only the ones written at 10-year intervals.” But he looks on the bright side: “However unfortunate it is that we have to wait, and that there are 7 of Joensuu’s novels featuring Helsinki detective Timo Harjunpää still untranslated, we are lucky to now have To Steal Her Love, which succeeds on every level.” It features the p.o.v. of an unusual criminal who sees the colors of tumblers as he pickes locks and animates everything in his environment. “He names everything that is important to him: each of his feet has a name, his flashlight and knife have names, and he gives his own names to the women whose apartments he enters when they are asleep.” He concludes: “This is a book that deserves a wide audience, much wider than Joensuu has up to now received in the English-speaking world.” I’m sold.

Speaking of Finnish writers, an English translation of Jarkko Sipila’s Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall has just come on the market from a small publishing start up in my home state of Minnesota. Since the publisher shares the same last name, it’s quite possibly a family affair. In any case, Finland has a lively crime fiction scene, so more translations are always welcome.

If you’re in a betting mood, you can predict who you think will win the international dagger at Euro Crime – or vote for the book you wish would win – or take a poll on which ones you’ve read at Kerrie’s Mysteries in Paradise (on the right-hand side of the page). Norm (aka Uriah) calculates the odds based on translators and their past credits (fascinating!) while wondering where all the German and Dutch books are.

Sunnie has a review of Camilla Lackberg’s The Preacher up on her blog. She found it full of good twists and turns and seamlessly translated.

Ed Siegel reviews Henning Mankell’s Italian Shoes for the Boston Globe and finds it both almost comically morose (the main character has a dreary life and even his cat is on the verge of death) but also a surprisingly good read, and better than other of Mankell’s standalones.

And finally,Mike Goodridge at Screen Daily opines that the success of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy may predict a new sort of pan-European blockbuster based on the appeal of Lizabeth Salander.

So what makes Millennium special? It is, after all, 152 minutes long and in Swedish. Perhaps the 14 million readers around the globe of the late Stieg Larsson’s three novels know the secret – principally the title character, a twentysomething sociopath called Lisbeth Salander who is also a brilliant computer hacker.

In Salander, audiences have found a thoroughly original heroine or anti-heroine. Prone to violence and anti-social behaviour, she is pierced, tattooed and bisexual. Played in the film by newcomer Noomi Rapace, she is also a crusader trying to clear her name and a righteous defender of women against the abuses of men.

The character is not too distant from Jason Bourne or Daniel Craig’s James Bond – ruthless, homicidal kind-of-good guys out for blood.

Only female. Bisexual. Wounded. Quite a variation on the theme, but the most popular figure in a whole crop of kick-ass outsider women who have cropped up in the genre lately (and for the most part written by male authors such as Tim Maleeny and Greg Rucka), an interesting development in the gendering of crime fiction.

bits and pieces

DJ reviews Hakan Nesser’s Kvinde med Modermaerke aka Woman With Birthmark (and what an interesting Danish cover it has). Though it’s about rather dreary people, and the protagonist can be grumpy at times, DJ points to the humor in the book and considers the entire series, set in a geographically ambiguous country, highly enjoyable.

The Globe and Mail thinks Lackberg’s The Preacher is dandy – it shows why Läckberg is often compared to Ruth Rendell.” I can’t honestly see the connection at all.

Peter Rozovsky reports from CrimeFest in Bristol on an interview with Hakan Nesser. Dour Swedes may be, Nesser said, but not cripplingly so: “We’re not that depressed, but we don’t talk a lot. That’s good for a crime story. You keep things inside for thirty years,” and then they just come out.” Also included are tidbits about his books, both translated and not (yet).

Peter also points to a sad story in the Times about the bitter dispute over Stieg Larsson’s literary estate (and the rather outsized amount of money involved) between his all-but-married partner and his family. She was not included, but has his laptop on which are pages of a fourth novel and outlines for more, so there is speculation that the family’s declaration there will be no further publication of the series might also be disputed.  A Norwegian website has been formed to support Larsson’s partner in the dispute. Donations are scaled using an algorithm that combines how much you enjoyed the books combined with how angry you are about his partner’s situation.

Update: Sarah Weinman’s thoughts on the situation.

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.

good news

Steph’s wonderful WhereDunnit blog is full of good news.

Sunnie has her reservations about The Girl Who Played With Fire – and wonders if anyone else did. “Good in parts but annoying and exasperating in others.”  (She calls it a “curate’s egg” – a new phrase to me, but possibly a good book title, eh?)

Cathy Skye reflects on The Princess of Burundi – mixed feelings, but worth reading: “There was just enough of main character Ann Lindell there for me to know that she’s someone special that I would like to get to know better. (I would suggest that, if she has any more children, her maternity leave occurs between books and not right in the middle of one!) I also found Eriksson’s descriptions of Sweden and Swedish society to be very good. As I was reading, I felt as though I were there crunching through the endless snow and becoming better acquainted with the people.”

crimeficreader thinks highly of Camilla Läckberg’s The Preacher and writes a lovely and thorough review to explain why. Go read it.

If you’re going to CrimeFest you can hear all about the art of translation in the “Foreign Correspondant” panel. I believe this is all Maxine’s fault, or is it Karen’s? Anyway, never underestimate the power of blog comments.

catching up

It must be spring. News and reviews are springing up all over.

The Seattle Times notices the allure of scruffy Scandinavian detectives as Lit  Life editor Mary Ann Gwin previews the Branagh Wallander, soon to appear in the US, and interrogates J.B. Dickey, owner of the Seattle Mystery Bookstore.

Glenn Harper of International Noir reviews Camilla Läckberg’s The Preacher – “Part Cain and Abel, part Elmer Gantry.” And a touch of Maeve Binchy in the family dynamics. He finds it’s a northern sort of Southern Gothic.

Maxine reviews Karin Alvtegen’s Missing and recommends you clear your calendar to read it all in one go. It’s “a tensely exciting book with an extremely sympathetic and capable main character.”  Alvtegen has been touring the US in advance of the Edgar awards banquet on April 30th. Missing is up for an award, having finally been published in the US.

Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times advises that “writers write about dull subjects at their peril.” Yet Hakan Nesser’s Woman With a Birthmark pulls it off, turning the murder of a very dull man into a compelling story.

In the annual mystery issue of Library Journal Wilda Williams speculates that US publisher’s infatuation with  Scandinavian crime may be cooling off.

Poisoned Pen Press editor Barbara Peters believes the globalization of crime fiction has become a permanent feature of the mystery world. The question today is whether chilly, Nordic thrillers will continue to appeal to American readers seeking to escape their domestic troubles. The verdict so far is mixed.

“We’ve only seen the popularity of Scandinavian crime writers grow since the initial U.S. media frenzy hit in the early 2000s,” says Picador senior publicist Lisa Mondello Fielack. She notes that Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason continues to do well for the paperback imprint especially after the movie of his Jar City became the highest-grossing film in Iceland’s history. An American remake now in the works may stir further reader interest.

Fielack argues that as new writers such as Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) enter the mix, the Scandinavian crime pool only seems to have grown stronger. Out this month are Håkan Nesser’s Woman with a Birthmark (Pantheon), Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s My Soul To Take (Morrow), and Inger Frimansson’s Island of the Naked Women (Pleasure Boat). Larsson’s second novel in his acclaimed trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire (Knopf), debuts in August. In October, Sarah Crichton Books/FSG will publish Box 21, a Swedish thriller by Börge Hellström and Anders Roslund. Even suspense juggernaut James Patterson is catching the Nordic crime wave by partnering with Swedish crime writer Liza Marklund (The Bomber, LJ 5/1/01) on a thriller set in Stockholm (to be published in 2010 in Sweden).

Other publishers, however, think the field has been saturated. “Our Scandinavian titles received rave reviews in the past, but sales have decreased,” comments Grand Central Publishing assistant editor Celia Johnson. “With any mystery book, the challenge is to produce something that stands out in a crowded marketplace.”

My question: why a remake of Jar City? I haven’t even seen the original one yet.

The Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies is meeting in Madison, Wisconsin this week. On the agenda are some talks I’d love to hear.

“Swedish Crime Queens and the Economics of Popular Culture,” Sara Kärrholm, Lund University
“Swedish Crime Fiction and (the Lack of) Science,” Kerstin Bergman, Lund University
“Crime Tourism and the Branding of Places: An Expanding Market in Sweden,” Carina Sjöholm, Lund University
“Out of Place: Geographical Fiction(s) in Håkan Nesser’s Inspector Van Veeteren Series,” Jennifer Jenkins, Pacific Lutheran University

Hat tip to Janet Rudolph for this lovely video about Iceland, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and My Soul to Take.


review round-up and misanthropy to look forward to

Uriah (aka Norm) reviews Jo Nesbo’s Redeemer – “absolutely superb crime fiction” – which I am eager to read.

Peter Rozovsky comments on the music references in Redeemer, and what they say about change in a detective character who is maturing. He also points to an earlier instance of a music reference demonstrating how very funny some Scandinavian writers can be.

And if you think stuffed animals for characters was a one-off aberation in Scandinavian crime fiction which is otherwise straightforward realism, Karen Meek of Euro Crime points out a forthcoming translation of Unfun by Matias Faldbakken. The  summary bears repeating:

Using the dramaturgy of the rape/revenge flicks of the Seventies as a framework for his narrative, Faldbakken cooks up a grotesquely hilarious and challenging story about the crew around the online slasher game ”Deathbox”, at the center of which are the ’violence intellectual’ Slaktus and his former girlfriend and victim Lucy, an anarchist who embodies the horror film’s Final Girl trope. Problematizing concepts of oppression, freedom, and power in different contexts, Faldbakken lets Lucy meet out revenge on her oppressors in a narrative littered with references to popular culture, which bears Faldbakken’s trademark of being at once seriously disturbing and highly entertaining.

One decidedly unfun tradition for translations, however, is preserved here – we’ll get to read the third book in a trilogy first. But who can resist a trilogy titled “Scandinavian Misanthropy?”

And catching up on all the news that fit to feed – among FriendFeed friendsShots Magazine has an interview with Camilla Lackberg, Reg reports that Stieg Larsson won the Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year award at the Galaxy British Book Awards, which apparently is called “the Nibbies.” CrimeFic Reader has more at It’s a Crime! (Or a Mystery). And Random Jottings has good things to say about Lackberg’s The Preacher, which she found a “tightly plotted, well thought out thriller” that was less morose than she expected from watching Branagh’s Wallander.