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.


daggers, bankers, and science in crime fiction

As anyone who follows crime fiction already knows, Johan Theorin’s The Darkest Room won the International Dagger, edging ahead a very strong shortlist with a heavy Nordic accent. In addition to Theorin, Stieg Larsson’s third and final book and Arnaldur Indridason’s Hypothermia were both on the list. There was nothing this time by Fred Vargas, however, so no trifecta for her.

I haven’t read all the books on the shortlist, but others whose tastes I trust have and I don’t think anyone is disappointed in this outcome. Congratulations to Karen and other judges who had a pleasantly difficult job of choosing among outstanding books. I gave the book a thumbs-up back in February. Other reviews include

Yrsa Sigurdardottir is interviewed in The Scotsman and is her usual charming self. One thing I didn’t know: she has a day job that sounds very demanding.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir doesn’t live by writing alone: her time isn’t all her own. Oh no: she also builds dams. And not just any damn dams. For her last major project she was technical manager on the Karahnjukar dam in remote east Iceland, the biggest of its kind in Europe and the largest construction project in Iceland’s history.

She is also angry with the bankers who infused so much money (and new class divisions) into their egalitarian society, and then let everyone down so badly in the crash that is called the “kreppa.” She’s so angry, in fact, that she won’t include them in her books, not even as victims.

A poor country until it discovered how to harness its natural resources in the 20th century, and until the Second World War highlighted its strategic importance, pre-kreppa Iceland seemed a relatively classless one too.

That’s how Sigurdardottir – who was born in 1963 – remembers it, anyway. Pharmacists were rich (not doctors or dentists) but that was about it. No particular Reykjavik suburb was more sought-after than anywhere else. “And now, with these bankers – there’s just 20 people, everyone knows who they are – everything’s ruined. Robbing charities, for God’s sake. And Britain using these laws against us like we’re terrorists.

“You see, that used to be the thing about being Icelandic. We don’t have an army, so we’ve never done anything to any other nation . . . We thought we weren’t a corrupt country, but it turns out that we were about the most corrupt one in Europe. Because we’re so tiny, you can’t find anybody who’s not involved so we’ve had to bring in someone from Sweden to investigate the banking collapse. Because they weren’t fools, these bankers: they brought all kinds of people onto the boards, like it was a way of getting themselves immunity.”

Her newest book to be translated into English, Ashes to Dust, has just been published in the UK.

As part of a project to examine the portrayal of science in crime fiction, Kerstin Bergman of Lund University looks at the work of Åsa Nilsonne, (who hasn’t been translated into English) and in the ways the books were promoted and received. She finds that Swedish writers are much less inclined than popular US books and television shows to highlight science, rather paying more attention to social issues as the backdrop and key to crimes.

An aside: as much as I find science fascinating, I am dismayed by the way it is often treated as the ghost in the machine, a deus ex machina that reduces tragic muddles and messes to a matter of clever tests and clear-cut results that are rare in actual criminal investigations (partly because science isn’t always clear in its results and largely because there simply aren’t the resources to spend such a lot of time and technology on cases; just this month Illinois passed a law that all rape kits must be submitted for DNA analysis – after thousands of kits lay on evidence room shelves for years). It leads people to expect certainty in situations where so often there isn’t any, and distracts them from social issues that are all to real.  This is particularly curious in the US, where in nearly every other situation science and scientists are viewed with a rather high level of skepticism. But when it comes to a choice between lab results and intractable social problems, the lab is a relatively clean, well-lighted place.

photo of a double helix made of books courtesy of inkyhack.

Fire and Ice

Yrsa Sigurdardóttir chats with Sydney Jones at his blog devoted to crime fiction’s relationship to settings, Scene of the Crime. She gives some coordinates for her next book to be translated into English, Ashes to Dust:

It takes place in a small fishing village on the Westmann Islands off the south coast of Iceland, an island on which a volcano erupted with much ado in 1973. Being pretty used to lava and seascapes it was an archeological dig called Pompeii of the North that intrigued me the most. The dig involves excavating houses from underneath massive layers of ash to showcase them in situ, while my story adds a fictional twist when something other than broken roof beams and rusted iron is unearthed. On every visit to the dig I was just as impressed as the first time I laid eyes on the huge, deep canal, as the blackness of the all-encompassing ash and the effect it had on sounds was intimidating, not to mention the graphic reminder of nature’s not so gentle treatment of the houses we intend to keep us safe from the elements.

For more from Yrsa about Iceland and volcanoes, see her most recent post at Murder is Everywhere, a joint blog of several authors who set mysteries outside the US.

In the Going Backward Department, the Salomonsson Agency’s newsletter reports that the first of Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series, titled The Bat Man, will be published in English in 2012, after The Leopard, which is number eight in the series. Will we get the second in the series eventually? Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, Glenn Harper at International Noir Fiction gives us a preview of his experience reading Nesbø’s The Snowman.

Nesbø writes beautifully, with a style that seems simple but is interlaced with humor, metaphor, character, and menace. Though many readers will figure out who the killer is long before Detective Harry Hole does, the fun in reading the book really comes in reading the prose and watching the plot twist and turn through numerous red herrings and false leads until it reaches its inevitable conclusion.

Ali Karim reports thoroughly from the evening at the Swedish Embassy in London where distinguished guests were invited to discuss “Crimes of the Millennium.” One interesting tidbit: about half of the 44 (!) translations of what is called in English The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo used a literal translation of the original title: Men Who Hate Women. Ali’s report is followed by a short essay written by Barry Forshaw, author of the forthcoming biography of Stieg Larsson, The Man Who Left Too Soon.

Maxine, who picked up a copy of Swedish Book Review at the big do, reports on a preview published there of Henning Mankell’s The Troubled Man written by its translator, Laurie Thompson, and reminds Maxine that she much prefers the books to any of the television adaptations. The final Wallander novel will be published in the UK in 2011.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Last Rituals

A lawyer accepts a job investigating the gruesome murder of a German student who has been studying in Iceland when the students’ parents conclude the police did a slapdash job and have probably arrested the wrong man. The student was deeply interested in witchcraft and witch trials and has collected a group of students around him who have similar interests.

Though there are to date only two Icelandic mystery writers whose works have been translated into English, they could hardly be more different, at least among Scandinavian crime writers. Yrsa’s book is lighthearted, traditional in structure and cozy in tone, with lots of family background and even a bit of romance thrown in. In spite of some gruesomeness in the murder that opens the story, on the whole it’s an amiable entertainment, and fun to read, with some nice landscape included, but it doesn’t have the narrative complexity or the depth that Arnaldur Indridason’s books have. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“we ignore the wider world at our peril”

Yrsa Sigurdardottir makes her first contribution to a group blog with an international flavor and charms everyone with her modesty and humor. She says,

If you are wondering what country I do call home, imagine a tiny island way up north where the only banking institution not humiliated and disgraced is the national blood bank. If this does not help, imagine a country obviously named by someone intent on keeping people out. If still at loss, imagine a war with no prisoners and absolutely no opportunity of placing landmines as it was fought at sea, on fishing boats, over cod. There will be no more clues.

But a commenter adds some additional hints:

It’s also a country with the oldest parliamentary system in western europe–and probably the longest continuous one in the world. It’s a country that keeps adding to its territory without war. And it’s a country with one of the most moving collections of epic literature, poetry and prose.

To which she charmingly responds “true, true and thank you for reminding me. Lately it has all been doom and gloom despite this being a great country, I needed the reminder.”
Maxine, at her Petrona blog, has a wonderful blog post about Stieg Larsson, recapping some articles and quoting from an e-mail message that Larsson sent to his publisher in which he said,
I’ve tried to create main characters who are drastically different from the types who generally appear in crime novels. Mikael Blomkvist, for instance, doesn’t have ulcers, or booze problems or an anxiety complex. He doesn’t listen to operas, nor does he have an oddball hobby such as making model aeroplanes. He doesn’t have any real problems, and his main characteristic is that he acts like a stereotype ‘slut’, as he admits himself. I’ve also changed the sex roles on purpose: in many ways Blomkvist acts like a typical “bimbo”, while Lisbeth Salander has stereotype ‘male’ characteristics and values…..

The article that Maxine links to by Val McDermid is well worth a read. In “The Man Who Died Too Soon,” she concludes,

It’s a tribute to Larsson’s skill that he never allows his political concerns to dominate his desire to tell a cracking good story packed with dramatic incident and brimming with quirky insights. But without his personal commitment to taking a stand in support of what he believed in, I’m convinced these three novels could never have had so powerful an impact among readers.

Forty years ago, with their Martin Beck novels, the Swedish writers Sjöwall and Wahlöö blazed a trail that proved the crime novel provides the perfect vehicle to write stories that shine a critical light on the society we live in. Stieg Larsson demonstrated that this works just as well for present-day concerns, and his example should give aspiring writers the confidence to put their own beliefs at the heart of their work. Books like The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest remind us all that we ignore the wider world at our peril.

Glen Harper at International Noir Fiction reviews Gunnar Staalesen’s The Consorts of Death (and promises to say more about the Norwegian television series):

Staalesen shows great skill in keeping a very complex story coherent: characters and events weave in and out, with personal and metaphorical connections among them all along the way. There are some surpises at the end, as well, when Varg finally discovers what’s been going on in the several murders and in Johnny Boy’s life. Staalesen’s novels take on social issues, but there are many passages in this book that are right out of classic noir (though Varg isn’t the usual noir hero, he has too much hope for his clients’ fates). There’s a lot more Varg Veum in Norwegian, and I for one hope for translators and publishers to fill in the gaps in what has been translated.

There’s an article in The Prospect about the Stieg Larsson phenomenon that seems peculiarly off-base in almost every particular. The author says the Sweden portrayed in crime fiction “is the modern equivalent of the library in the country house of classic English detective stories: the conventional stage in which to find corpses surrounded by a selection of intriguing and sinister eccentrics. . . . The crimes are all solved by amateurs, and usually the punishment is dealt out by amateurs too.” Salander is a witch, and Blomqvist is “Philip Marlowe without the failures or the inner life.” He considers Sjowall and Wahloo as part of the same fantasy genre, and refers (quite snidely) to the “domestic Swedish detective novel, which Scandinavia women journalists in their thirties write instead of chicklit.” My favorite comment on this article comes from a friend at the FriendFeed  Crime and Mystery Fiction room, who feels the author was “jumping on a bandwagon and driving it into the nearest vacant column inches.” Really, it’s difficult to compete with the depth of knowledge and the sheer wit of the residents of this online community.

*The country in question is Iceland, if you haven’t guessed.

tell me about the rabbits, Karin

Dorte at DJ’s Krimiblog reviews Karin Fossum’s Don’t Look Back. I agree with her, it’s a terrific book and as with most of Fossum’s stories it makes you think hard about our definition of “normal.” There’s also an unsettling quality to the final pages that is very like The Water’s Edge.

Lynn Harnett reviews two second acts,  The Girl Who Played With Fire and Yrsa Sigurdarsdottir’s My Soul to Take in the Porstmouth, New Hampshire Seacoast Online. She recommends reading both Stieg Larsson books (just because) and says “Sigurdardottir’s second Thora Gudmundsdottir book evokes the long days, crisp air and craggy coast of Iceland in spring and should appeal to readers of Scandinavian mysteries who prefer a little less brooding.”

The Bookish Kitty thinks Irene Huss is a good strong female lead for a series. She reviews Helene Tursten’s The Glass Devil:

Tursten strikes a nice balance between the inspector’s work and personal life. As the mother of twin daughters who recently turned 18 and a husband who has a demanding job if his own, she has much to juggle in her life. Tursten does a good job of showing the realities of such a struggle, including the compromises that sometimes must be made.

Personal and work lives are not the only things being juggled throughout the novel. Irene Huss and her colleagues have their hands full, often short-staffed and with other cases to investigate. The author captures the necessity of teamwork in the law enforcement world, whether it be staff from the same office working together or connecting with other authorities outside of the district or even abroad.

True to its title, The Glass Devil is not always what it seems. Tursten takes the novel in unexpected and sometimes very dark directions. The wrap-up of the crime seems to be a little too pat, but it is a satisfactory ending nonetheless. This is my first, but definitely not my last, Helene Tursten novel.

Sadly, Soho will not be publishing more English translations of this series. (Barbara shakes fist in the direction of New York.)

reviews and comparisons

Marilyn Stasio provides reviews of The Girl Who Played With Fire and Karin Fossum’s The Water’s Edge. She advises impatient readers to cut to the chase and skip the first 124 pages of Girl, when the story really starts, and admires Fossum’s ability to examine every character touched by a crime with humanity in this “exceptionally fine story.”

At Euro Crime, Maxine reviews Ake Edwardson’s Frozen Tracks, the third Erik Winter novel to be translated though it is the sixth in the series. (The first will be published in a couple of months.) This is a very long book – over 500 pages – but she finds it overall a satisfying procedural involving two seemingly unrelated sets of events.

I managed to miss an interesting review posted last month by crimeficreader of Yrsa Sigurdarsdottir’s second novel, My Soul To Take. She thinks there hasn’t been much accomplished in the character development department from the first in the series, but finds it the plotting and tone to be very successful:

There are so many red herrings it’s like being asked to locate the one whitebait in a fish market.  Sigurðardóttir doesn’t just wrong foot the reader, she has you in the wrong footwear to deal with the terrain.  We again have the dark balanced with the light, pulled off in a rather unique and skilful way.  Watch out for a sex therapist and her tools of the trade as this element covers both those aspects.

If that isn’t a hook, I don’t know what is.

And finally – Seamus Scanlon, a guest on Declan Burke’s Crime Always Pays blog, offers an overview of the “Story of Crime” – an overarching title for the Martin Beck series by Maj Swowall and Per Wahloo. The ten books are “all written with aplomb and honesty and set the standard for all police procedurals that followed.” The Swedish series is able to write about crime and society in a way that reflects the authors’ Marxist views without becoming overly didactic.

Scanlon mentions a debt owed to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series; in fact, the athors translated McBain into Swedish, but weren’t yet familiar with his work when they started writing about Martin Beck and his colleagues. This seems more like a Liebnitz/Newton moment, when people in two countries working with similar materials happened to invent something very similar – calculus and the Hogarthian police procedural that reflects the urban experinece in all its grimy glory – at roughly the same time. (McBain started his series nearly a decade before Roseanna was published.)

Scanlon also points out the ways in which Mankell and those who followed him into the crime writing trenches owe a debt to Sjowall and Wahloo. “Mankell’s Inspector Wallander, an existential warrior battling crime and his own melancholia, closely resembles Beck.” But that suggests a tonal similarity that, I think, is not entirely true. Martin Beck would probably be taken aback to be called a “warrior” and while he has a dose of melancholia (as well as frequent colds) the books themselves are hardly gloomy – they’re shot through with humor and irony. Which is another way in which they resemble McBain more than Mankell.

This photo from Flickr’s Creative Commons pool was taken by Jickel, who comments “The tape seems to be the kind the police use to mark out crime scenes.”

post-vacation review round-up

Martin Edwards has a lovely quote from Hakan Nesser on the essence of crime fiction, at his blog, Do You Write Under Your Own Name? Go read it.

Bernadette finds much to like about Camilla Lackberg’s Ice Princess.

I reviewed Inger Frimansson’s Island of the Naked Women for Reviewing the Evidence. The author delves deep into psychological suspense in a hardscrabble setting. The title sounds like a hedonistic ClubMed destination but shows a different side of traditional Scandinavian attitudes toward sex: in the old days, unmarried women who became pregnant or otherwise offended public morals were abandoned there to die of exposure.

Euro Crime finds an interesting trend – many first books in series are getting published (though maddeningly out of order) and this time it’s Ake Edwardsson’s Erik Winter series.

Crimeficreader reads Johan Theorin’s The Darkest Room. Though she isn’t planning a winter visit to Oland anytime soon, she thought the book was original and compelling.

The wonderfully original aspect of The Darkest Room is that the suspense comes from finding out what really happened from a myriad of obscure routes, with the reader not fully comprehending the extent of issues to be resolved at the outset.  The wonderfully brilliant aspect of reading The Darkest Room is the feeling of satisfaction on reaching the end and the sense of time well-spent with an author who knows how to entertain, whilst exploring the darker recesses of the mind; for The Darkest Room in Theorin’s novel is in the mind.

Rob Kitchen reviews Yrsa Sigurdarsdottir’s Last Rituals and, after weighing its strengths and weaknesses concludes it’s a “mildly enjoyable first novel, but nothing startling.”

Bookwitch takes a look at Jo Nesbo’s writing for children which sounds rather fun but nothing like the Harry Hole books.

And of course The Girl (which scored #1 on the New York Times bestseller list)  is getting a lot of attention. Here are some of the reviews:

  • January Magazine – “oddly epic love story, ultra-violent crime thriller and classic buddy novel all at once”
  • Entertainment Weekly – “another gripping, stay-up-all-night read, but it’s also a bit sloppy”
  • Philly Enquirer – “What Larsson has done is akin to enlisting two huge, enticing stars, then keeping them separated for much of the action, united only through e-mail.”
  • San Francisco Chronicle (Alan Cheuse) – “The books are so good, in fact, that I have to keep reminding myself that they are genre novels, not mainstream fiction” (ouch!)
  • Seattle Times – “The troubled, brilliant Lisbeth is unforgettable.”
  • USA Today – “Larsson makes the reader love and worry about his heroine as though she were real.”
  • Washington Post – “Here is a writer with two skills useful in entertaining readers royally: creating characters who are complex, believable and appealing even when they act against their own best interest; and parceling out information in a consistently enthralling way.”

The Seattle Times also reviews Karin Fossum’s The Water’s Edge

The book has several sterling qualities, including a concise, crisp translation and a terrifying portrait of the fragmenting couple that discovers the body — especially the husband and his creepy fixation with the case.

AND – for bonus points – interview Reg Keeland, the Girl’s translator, who explains how “Reg” was born and how he keeps up with current Swedish slang.

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.”

links from friends

I know I rely entirely too much on the FriendFeed Crime and Mystery Fiction room for the tidbits I harvest for this blog. It’s far more productive than the Google alerts I have set up. But really, if you want to know about Scandinavian crime fiction – and every other kind of crime fiction – you should sign up. It’s addictive.

Norm (aka Uriah) comments on Karin Alvtegen’s Shadow, saying. “the sharp use of language and metaphor in Karin Alvtegen’s Shadow to depict a bleak loveless world is quite brilliant. It might have a little bit to do with the translator McKinley Burnett.” A few posts later, he provides a full review.

This is a complicated and complex novel which paints a very bleak picture of humanity with its cast of socially damaged characters . . . The book succeeds on many levels but especially as a lesson that once you take that first shaky step away from the straight and narrow you have no idea where it may lead. This book like the other Alvtegen novel I have read Betrayal is brilliantly written and plotted; but it is very dark definitely not a cheerful read.

He also provides a much-appreciated service by putting Harry Hole in order (particularly useful given the books have been translated out of order – though Harry himself would probably resist anyone trying to organize him).

The Brothers Judd review Henning Mankell’s The Man Who Smiled, pointing out that the hero, Kurt Wallander, is not the subject of the title; they find the story a bit didactic.

The Spectator reviews a handful of mysteries, including My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, saying it is “spooky and gruesome . . . both chilling and witty — an agreeable combination.”

Cathy of Kittling Books reviews an intriguing book that is more speculative fiction than mystery, but it certainly sounds interesting – The Unit by Swedish author Ninni Holmqvist, which deals with biomedical ethics in a dystopian world. (Incidentally, one of the things Cathy does in her review that I love is quote the first line.) She also provides her take on Anne Holt’s What is Mine, saying “this book is an ardent commentary on parenthood and an absorbing mystery with a nice little twist at the end.” She also says, “try as I might, I just can’t ignore these wonderful mysteries that keep coming my way from Scandinavia!” Hey, to paraphrase P.D.Q. Bach, if it reads good, it is good.

Maxine has an excerpt from Matti Joensuu’s To Steal Her Love that includes a rather endearing image of a man apologizing to a rabbit: “each time the rabbit finished eating its dandelion leaf Harjunpää quietly apologised and fetched him a fresh one growing by the wall.” And she adds another excerpt, with a promise of a Euro Crime review forthcoming.

Euro Crime has an update on the Dagger polls – you’d think it was the Booker Prize in the old days, making book on books.

Peter reviews K. O. Dahl’s The Last Fix – a bit pedantic for his tastes, but with some good psychological insights and dry humor, all well translated by Don Bartlett.

DJ reviews Liza Marklund’s Studio Sex, apa Studio 69. She reckons it’s perhaps her best.

With friends like these, I’ll never run out of things to read next.