As I look up into the gray skies of Brooklyn and know that the winter sun, which has barely shown its face for days, will be disappearing behind the skyscrapers of Manhattan in an instant, I feel an affinity with the bleak and coffee-filled settings of Nordic Noir.
Many of us were introduced to the genre by Stieg Larsson’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO and David Largercrantz’s follow-ups, the latest one being THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE, all narrated by the award-winning Simon Vance. Having listened to all of the audiobooks numerous times, I am really looking forward to the next one, THE GIRL WHO LIVED TWICE, which is scheduled for release in August 2019. I actually went super fangirl on a recent trip to Stockholm and searched for Lisbeth Salander. At least I found the street where she grew up—Lundegarten. Ironically, I got to experience Sweden during the heat of summer with beautiful blue skies when the sun never sets.
Nordic noir goes way back before Larsson’s series. Some attribute its start to writing partners Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, who introduced us to Detective Martin Beck in the first audiobook in the series, ROSEANNA, narrated by Tom Weiner. These police procedurals take place in Sweden in the 1960s and ’70s.
The list of Swedish Noir audiobooks is lengthy and includes many interesting, serious, and complex stories and protagonists, including Henning Mankell’s Inspector Kurt Wallander. The final book in the Wallander series, AN EVENT IN AUTUMN, is narrated by Simon Vance, while narrator Dick Hill voices Wallander in the earlier books.
It’s hard to believe that this is the same Sweden that has given us ABBA and IKEA.
But it’s not all about Sweden. Nordic Noir covers Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, too.
Norway is well represented by Jo Nesbø and his tough, relentless, and damaged, Harry Hole. In the most recent, the 11th audiobook in the series, THE THIRST, John Lee provides the narration to this dark and violent tale.
For Denmark, I want to make note of Sara Blaedel, considered Denmark’s Queen of Crime Fiction. Her series features Louise Rick, Danish detective in charge of the Special Search Agency. I had the opportunity to review THE LOST WOMAN, narrated by Christine Lakin, who has become the voice of Louise Rick. As with many of the Nordic Noir books, the solving of crimes is interwoven with serious social themes—in this case, assisted suicide.
And before we leave Nordic Noir, we must do a stopover in Iceland. A BBC story reveals that: This island nation of just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world. And many of these Icelanders are writing crime novels. Arnaldur Indridason, Iceland’s best-selling crime writer, has given us the Detective Erlendur crime series, as well as, the recent THE SHADOW DISTRICT, read by George Guidall.
So much dark crime to cozy up with on a cold winter night. A perfect way to spend the holidays for us crime audiofiles! Best wishes for the New Year!