Saturday, 24 September 2011

Midwinter Sacrifice

Have just finished reading Midwinter Sacrifice by Swedish author Mons Kallentoft. Simultaneously describing the action and allowing the reader to 'eavesdrop' on the stream of consciousness playing out in the main character's head, the rhythm of the narrative is initially daunting but rewards the reader with a fascinating new detective, Malin Fors. She is a woman struggling in her personal life as she cements her place in the Violent Crime Squad. The discovery of a body in a desolate part of the countryside triggers an investigation that baffles Malin and colleagues and takes them into a world of maternal domination, familial dysfunction and social ambivalence. Kallentoft brings the trademark Scandinavian focus on the physical environment while at the same time deftly describing the complexities of modern life in Sweden. Malin Fors features in five novels to date by Mons Kallentoft, with this being the first one translated into English. It is due for release in Australia in time for our new bookstore to include it in our Christmas gift recommendations.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

bookselling news

If you are reading this blog, you must share my interest in nordic crime fiction and probably share my passion for the whole crime fiction genre. My passion for it dates back to my earliest memories of reading, starting with the classics of the Famous Five and the like, that were both mystery and adventure novels and, for me, precursors to the works of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. This book passion runs through my life, with over 30 years now in a career in bookselling. And, will continue long into the future.
My store, Reader's Feast, in Melbourne Australia is currently in the throes of great disruption but the hope is that we will be able to transplant all that we have built there into a new beginning. Watch this space, as they say.
In the meantime, be assured that a new nordic crime review is on its way over the next week.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Watch out for Outrage

Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason
Have just read the proof of Outrage by Indridason, a title due out early July. Set in Reykjavik, this latest in a series features Detective Elinborg leading an investigation in the absence of her colleague Detective Erlendur. When a man is found dead, wearing only a woman's t-shirt and with the drug Rohypnol both in his jacket pocket and his mouth, the police are baffled not least because the scene does not fit the usual rape/murder profile. It transpires that the victim was once a resident of a small, isolated village a plane ride away from the Icelandic capital and that his circle of friends seems to extend to one, a reclusive and odd man. Elinborg is confronting the silence of a small village community; virtually no witnesses to either the victim's life or death; and her own family situation that is fraught with tension with her teenage son.
The narrative is, at times, slightly disjointed (a result perhaps of the translation process rather than the writing per se) but this is nonetheless a book well worth reading. Elinborg's character is developing well over the life of the series and indeed all the characters who populate this book are interesting and provide some surprise elements to the discussion of how certain crimes lead to multiple victims, not just the person physically harmed.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

“Joona Linna’s colleagues at the National Criminal Investigation Department will tell you they admire him, and they do, but they also envy him. And they will tell you they like him, and they do, but they also find him aloof. As a homicide investigator, his track record is unparalleled in Sweden…..But what most don’t know is that his unique stubbornness is the result of unbearable personal guilt”

It is Detective Linna who heads up the investigation into the slaying of a family. The first officers on the scene thought everyone was dead but, in fact, the young boy, Josepf, is still alive.  Dreadfully injured, he lapses into a coma and Linna brings in Erik Maria Bark, an expert in the treatment of shock and trauma. The problem is that Bark has been at the centre of a  controversy in earlier years involving his use of hypnosis.

The unfolding story draws on characters on the edge of an emotional precipice with manipulation, sinister intent, and fraught relationships at the heart of it. Linna is a wonderful main character while the emotionally unravelling Bark is expertly depicted.

The film rights have been sold to this title and more books featuring Linna are on the way from Lars Kepler ( a pseudonym of Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Jussi Adler-Olsen

This book has just arrived in-store and I wanted to review it immediately as I read it some weeks back and it is fabulous. Set in Copenhagen, it follows detective Carl Morck as he comes to terms with being relegated to creating a ‘new’ department after a disastrous last case in the Homicide Division in which colleagues were killed and another left permanently disabled. Morck’s first case (which no-one expects him to solve) is one of missing person, Merete Lynggaard, who was last seen five years earlier. She was a government minister about whom little was known beyond her public persona.
The reader realises very early in the novel that Merete is in fact still alive but imprisoned. Carl has no sense of this, assuming he is on the hunt for a body and an explanation for murder.
This is a thoroughly original novel that so captivates the reader as to make him/her feel unease through the chapters depicting Merete’s imprisonment and how she is responding to what has befallen her. Morck’s fall from grace, his demons over what happened to his colleagues, and his refusal to allow his bosses sideline him are wonderfully represented.
A confronting but absolutely riveting novel, this is also the first in a series of four books to feature Morck.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Martin Beck Series

Maj Sjöwell and Per Wahlöö are credited with creating the Nordic crime novel and providing the precedent for all the novels we now enjoy from Scandinavian writers.
Set in Stockholm, their series of books featuring Martin Beck was written over ten years and stands as a wonderful example of character development.

Beginning with Roseanna, written in 1965, the reader meets Martin as he prepares to travel to the locale where the body of a young woman has been found. As he finishes packing for his trip, we learn that “Martin Beck wasn’t chief of the Homicide Squad and had no such ambitions. Sometimes he doubted if he would ever make superintendent although the only things that could actually stand in his way were death or some very serious error in his duties. He was a First Detective with the National Police and had been with the Homicide Bureau for eight years. There were people who thought that he was the country’s most capable examining officer.”

Beck is a methodical investigator and the detailed description of the procedural nature of his work is the hallmark of the authors’ status as the very best crime writers. It takes him six and half months to catch Roseanna’s killer and involves detectives from as far away as America. It is the randomness of her killing and the difficulty of identifying her that dog Beck throughout the investigation. But, it is his calm stubbornness that carries him forward to the ultimate, accurate unveiling of the truth of Roseanna’s death.

Martin Beck will become a favourite detective for avid crime fiction readers.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


It is often remarked that readers of crime fiction think of location as another character in a novel….as an example, Ian Rankin’s descriptions of Edinburgh are as fascinating as is his portrayal of the lead character, Rebus.

I believe this is especially true of Nordic crime. For an Australian who knows only mild to hot weather, the notion of being in a chilly, snow laden landscape is entrancing. To pitch the darkest behaviour of human beings towards others – murder, cruelty, and the like – in this physical landscape is particularly atmospheric.

My enjoyment of Nordic crime is based, loosely, on three characteristics:

-       Atmosphere – the physical landscape and the way it depicts the moods of the characters
-       Psyche – the characters are invariably introspective and complex people who reflect not only on their own emotional state but that of their colleagues
-       Writing – typically well written, the Nordic novelist seems to be adept at character development, plot creation, and weaving themes of social justice and human rights into their storylines.

Future Blogs will be dedicated to my reviews of Nordic crime titles you’ll find in book stores. As well I’ll be reviewing books I have read prior to their publication.

- Mary D.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Ready to Review

From April I will be reviewing my favourite Nordic Crime new releases. Favourites such as Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Camilla Lackberg will feature.