The publication of the bestselling Swedish novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo kickstarted the Nordic crime fiction trend, and left crime and thriller fans hungry for more Nordic noir. Set in bleak landscapes and centred on even bleaker crimes, often following a brooding outsider in their struggle for justice, Nordic noir’s dark themes and shocking twists offer enough thrills for even the most hardened crime novel fan. Here’s our edit of the best Nordic noir books.
A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson
Part Scandi noir, part domestic drama, this intelligent psychological thriller is told from three points of view, father, mother and daughter. Both family relationships and morals are tested when Stella, daughter of pastor Adam and lawyer Ulrika, is accused of the murder of a much older man. How far will Adam and Ulrika go to protect their only child? And what do they really believe?
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Chameleon People by Hans Olav Lahlum
1972. On a cold March morning, the weekend peace is broken when a frantic young cyclist rings on Inspector Kolbjørn 'K2' Kristiansen's doorbell, desperate to speak to the detective.
Compelled to help, K2 lets the boy inside, only to discover that he is being pursued by K2's colleagues in the Oslo police. A bloody knife is quickly found in the young man's pocket: a knife that matches the stab wounds of a politician murdered just a few streets away.
The evidence seems clear-cut, and the arrest couldn't be easier. But with the suspect's identity unknown, and the boy refusing to speak, K2 finds himself far from closing the case. And then there is the question that K2 can't get out of his head: why would a guilty man travel directly to a police detective from the scene of his own brutal crime?
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The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi
Set against Iceland's volcanic hinterlands, four thirty-somethings from Reykjavik – the reckless hedonist Egill; the recovering alcoholic Hrafin; and their partners Anna and Vigdis – embark on an ambitious camping trip, their jeep packed with supplies.
Victims of the financial crisis, the purpose of the trip is to heal both professional and personal wounds, but the desolate landscape forces the group to reflect on the shattered lives they've left behind in the city. As their jeep hurtles through the barren land, an impenetrable fog descends, causing them to suddenly crash into a rural farmhouse.
Seeking refuge from the storm, the group discover that the isolated dwelling is inhabited by a mysterious elderly couple who inexplicably barricade themselves inside every night. As past tensions within the group rise to the surface, the merciless weather blocks every attempt at escape, forcing them to ask difficult questions: who has been butchering animals near the house? What happened to the abandoned village nearby where bones lie strewn across the ground? And most importantly, will they ever return home?
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The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
At first the prisoner scratches at the walls until her fingers bleed, but there is no escaping the room. With no way of measuring time, her days, weeks, months go unrecorded. She vows not to go mad. She will not give her captors the satisfaction. she will die first.
Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck has been taken off homicide to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes. His first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she's dead. everyone says it's a waste of time. He thinks they're right.
The voice in the dark is distorted, harsh and without mercy. It says the prisoner's torture will only end when she answers one simple question. It is one she has asked herself a million times: why is this happening?
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The G File by Håkan Nesser
1987. Verlangan, a former cop turned private detective is hired by a woman to follow her husband Jaan 'G' Hennan. A few days later, his client is found dead at the bottom of an empty swimming pool.
Maardam Police, led by Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, investigate the case. Van Veeteren has encountered Jaan 'G' Hennan before and knows only too well the man's dark capabilities. As more information emerges about G's shadowy past, the Chief Inspector becomes more desperate than ever to convict him. But G has a solid alibi – and no one else can be found in relation to the crime.
2002. Fifteen years have passed and the G File remains the one case former Chief Inspector Van Veeteren has never been able to solve. But when Verlangan's daughter reports the private detective missing, Van Veeteren returns to Maardam CID once more. For all Verlangan left behind was a cryptic note; and a telephone message in which he claimed to have finally discovered the proof of G's murderous past . . .
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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family.
He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.
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The Bat by Jo Nesbo
Detective Harry Hole is meant to keep out of trouble. A young Norwegian girl taking a gap year in Sydney has been murdered, and Harry has been sent to Australia to assist in any way he can. When the team unearths a string of unsolved murders and disappearances, nothing will stop Harry from finding out the truth. The hunt for a serial killer is on, but the murderer will talk only to Harry . . . He might just be the next victim.
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The Killing I by David Hewson
Sarah Lund is looking forward to her last day as a detective with the Copenhagen Police Department before moving to Sweden. But everything changes when nineteen-year-old student, Nanna Birk Larsen, is found raped and brutally murdered in the woods outside the city. Lund's plans to relocate are put on hold as she leads the investigation along with fellow detective Jan Meyer.
While Nanna's family struggles to cope with their loss, local politician, Troels Hartmann, is in the middle of an election campaign to become the new mayor of Copenhagen. When links between City Hall and the murder suddenly come to light, the case takes an entirely different turn. Over the course of twenty days, suspect upon suspect emerges as violence and political intrigue cast their shadows over the hunt for the killer . . .
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Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
One frozen January morning at 5am, Inspector Wallander responds to what he believes is a routine call out. when he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath.
An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, both victims of a violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, it unleashes a tide of racism.
Wallander's life is a shambles. his wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him, and even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly, and drinks his nights away. But now Wallander must forget his troubles and throw himself into a battle against time, and against mounting racial hatred.
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The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg
Returning to her hometown after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems that she has taken her own life.
Erica conceives a memoir about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their lost friendship. While her interest grows to an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about the small town with a deeply disturbing past.
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Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson
Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village in northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel.
Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind.
When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose. Taut and terrifying.
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