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Nordic Noir books continue to grow in popularity and many of the best ones feature Stockholm as the backdrop. This despite the fact that Sweden’s capital city is one of the safest in the world, with serious crime relatively rare. The crime is, however, often gruesome and Swedish crime writers tend to weave their fiction with real issues in Swedish society. Here are eight of the best.
You can’t talk about Nordic Noir without talking about the Millennium Trilogy – the story of how the lives of damaged Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist intersect, sending them on a journey that twists and turns through the underbelly of Sweden’s criminal world over three novels; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. There may have been some great Scandi Noir before this, but Stieg Larsson managed to blow the world of publishing up with these books before his untimely death, gaining millions upon millions of fans around the world. Movies in both Swedish and English have been made and, if you’re in Stockholm, you can take a Millennium tour of the main areas talked about in the books.
In Scandi Noir women are rarely sidelined. In fact, they tend to take centre stage, whether that’s as a victim, or the person unravelling the mystery. The Crow Girl is no different: Detective Jeanette Kihlberg hunts down a serial killer who mutilates young boys, all while dealing with the latent sexism of her colleagues. The duo Jerker Eriksson and Håkan Axlander Sundquist, who write under the pen name Erik Axl Sund, have created a disturbing thriller that delves deep into psychological reasoning.
Easy Money (Snabba Cash) is the story of JW, a country boy who moves to the city and ends up living a double life – one which gives him money to flash, but one that also entangles him in the criminal underground, rife with the Yugoslavian mafia, drugs, and plenty of unsavoury characters. While it may sound like a moralistic tale – and perhaps, on one level it is – it’s also a fast-paced read that will leave your head spinning.
For fifteen years Sibylla Forsenström has not existed. Homeless in Stockholm, everything she owns is carried in one beaten-up, old backpack and, while her days and nights are spent on basic survival, she finds time to reflect on how and why her life turned out the way it did. This almost gentle existence is suddenly torn asunder when a man is brutally murdered – and Sibylla becomes the hunted. A real corker of a book that scooped up plenty of nominations and wins for crime fiction.
Known as The Blinded Man in the UK, Misterioso is the first in Dahl’s Intercrime series. In this groundbreaking novel, a small, elite task force is set up to tackle the most complex of crimes – in this case, titans of industry who are being murdered. The book was written when the unsolved assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme still cast a pall over Sweden, and many saw it as a response to real-life police bungling.
Detective Inspector Joona Linna investigates two unusual deaths involving the Swedish arms export business (long a controversial issue in Sweden). Linna suspects they are not quite the cut-and-dried cases they initially appear to be, and sets about unravelling the mystery, which involves the Swedish Security Services, possible terrorists, and a host of other baddies. This one is not fast-paced – instead, the story is carefully unwound, with layer upon layer slowly revealed.
Written together by a journalist and an ex-con, Three Seconds is nearly 500 pages. It doesn’t just take a look at Stockholm‘s criminal underbelly, it looks at what motivates people, where the police might be complicit, and how things might have turned out differently. And that’s just for starters. This award-winning book has been likened to the Millennium Trilogy and has more plots than a cemetery.
The fourth in the legendary Martin Beck series, The Laughing Policeman was first published in the late 1960s, and the plot reflects this. The police crack down on political demonstrations, brutalising a teenage demonstrator on her thirteenth birthday, all while ignoring real crime in the city. While commentary on the social changes of the time drives the story, the book is a rollicking good read, with surprising moments of empathy and plenty of action and plot twists to keep you turning the page.