Scandinavian Noir is a love letter by the author to her beloved Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian mysteries. It is also a memoir describing how she loved the written version of Scandinavia so much, she moved to Stockholm.
I have read at least one book in each of the author’s three favorite series: Sjowall/Wahloo’s Martin Beck, Mankell’s Kurt Wallander, and Nesbo’s Harry Hole. Interestingly, the book I liked best, Nesbo’s The Snowman, was described as “the one where the Grand Guigol theatrics begin to intrude”. In fact, the introduction explains why I do not enjoy Scandinavian mysteries much.
“This is the mystery novel not as a puzzle that can be forgotten as soon as it is solved, but as an experience one is living through along with the characters.”
As an Agatha Christie fan, I agree to disagree that puzzle mystery books are quickly forgotten. While I agree that a foreign setting does add an extra layer to a mystery, it is not the main reason I read mysteries. It appears that to some extent that is why the author is attracted to Scandinavian Noir.
In the first half of the book, commonalities among the books are discussed. Alcohol, bureaucracy, and isolation figure prominently in this mystery sub-genre. Unfortunately, child abuse, sexism and xenophobia are also frequently present.
The second half explores how the written version compares to the author’s real-life experience in Sweden. There is also an excellent list of books to read in the sub-genre in the appendix.
If you are already a fan of this sub-genre, Scandinavian Noir is a must read. For the rest of us, the author admits that spoilers abound in the first part but the list of books to read and in what order is invaluable. 4 stars!
Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.