Best Scandinavian Crime Novels

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Thanks to bestselling thrillers like Peter Hoag’s Smila’s Sense of Snow and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, fans of the mystery genre are no stranger to Scandinavian crime fiction. While the Land of the Midnight Sun has no shortage of literary stars, these are some of the Scandi Crime authors you won’t want to miss.

There’s only once place to start a crash course in Scandinavian crime fiction: with Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. These two pioneers defined the genre with their popular Martin Beck series – innovative for focusing not on crimes, but on the inner workings of detective Martin Beck and his team from the Special Homicide Commission as they solve cases.  With flawed heroes and realistic storylines, the Martin Beck mysteries broke new ground and helped to earn Sjöwall and Wahlöö a place on the Times of London’s recently published list of the 50 greatest crime writers ever.

Also named one of the Times of London’s 50 greatest crime writers of all time, Karin Fossum is called “the Norwegian queen of crime” and is best known for her internationally-popular Inspector Sejer series. A modern-day Sherlock Holmes, Chief Inspector Konrad Sejer works with his partner Jacob Skarre to track down brutal criminals through the fjords of the Norwegian countryside. The dark procedurals have earned a number of accolades – including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for The Indian Bride – along with the hearts of fan around the world.

If you’ve never read the Kurt Wallander series, you’re missing out on what’s been called one of the greatest characters in modern crime fiction. Swedish writer Henning Mankell is a master of suspense, following in the footsteps of Sjöwall and Wahlöö with flawed characters and flawlessly crafted mysteries. I love writing about flawed characters – like Jack Davis in Shakedown – because those are the people we can identify with and root for. One of the most influential authors writing crime fiction in Scandinavia, Mankell is as beloved as his popular protagonist, and his thrillers have been adapted for television in the BBC produced TV series “Wallander” starring Kenneth Branagh.

Rounding out the list of Scandinavian crime fiction writers you should be reading is Karin Alvtegen. The author of psychological thrillers like Betrayal and Shame, Alvtegen is known for giving readers a chilling glimpse into the minds of the criminals and detectives who bring her stories to life. Her novel Missing was a Best Novel nominee for a prestigious Edgar Award, and Shadow was nominated for the CWA International Dagger Award. Any of her novels of suspense will keep you turning the pages and holding your breath.

With so many talented authors contributing to the genre, it’s hard to go wrong with Scandinavian crime novels. Check out one of these thrilling Scandi Crime authors and see for yourself why mystery fans just can’t get enough.


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