A Scandinavian Suspense Story

I’ve always been a fan of what’s termed the ‘British cozy mystery.’ Think Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple and you get the idea – small town, amateur sleuth, baffled police. It can follow a formula but if you add some character development and a sense of place you have a good story.

When a friend gave me Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, I couldn’t put them down. I was immediately hooked, and tried to find similar stories. And I’m not alone. Scandinavian crime literature has become increasingly popular in the last three to four years. Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell and Arnaldur Inridason are just a few of the authors making Scandinavian crime more appealing.

While non-Scandinavians may be wondering why there are so many new crime writers from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and more, as Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, Lecturer in Scandinavian Literature at the Department of Scandinavian Studies at University College London tells The Word, there has been many very good crime writers writing in the Scandinavian languages at least through the 1980s.

“The wave of Scandinavian crime fiction now reaching a global audience through English is a more recent phenomenon, which I believe started with the success of Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Of course with the global attention, more writers, new as well as published authors in other genres, try their hand at crime writing as it is now a way to success and to make a bit of money,” he said.

That is true – Mankell, for instance, wrote literary novels and plays before killing someone via his typewriter. Karin Fossum was a prize-winning poet before becoming a crime writer.

Simple, direct writing is often given as another reason for the genre’s popularity – as are the settings, which are in smaller towns, under grey skies and with wintry weather. But how can countries often rated on global indices as being the happiest and with the highest quality of life produce such scandalous stories?

“One can still fear crimes, corruption, and loss of family members even if it rarely happens in your society. One may say that because the Nordic Welfare States are fairly peaceful places to live, and because there still is comparatively low crime rates and corruption, these are the kind of places and settings in which a crime thriller would be most effective and disruptive,” Mr Stougaard-Nielsen said.

Larrson’s trilogy also brought the crimes out of the small town and included what could be consider more ‘modern’ misdeeds such as corruption, hacking and criminal gangs. Mr Stougaard-Nielsen said it’s an important point to remember.

Scandinavian and Nordic: These words are often used interchangeably in English. Strictly speaking Scandinavia is the peninsula which includes Sweden and Norway, though Denmark, Iceland and Finland are included. Nordic was once broader and included anyone from Northern Europe. Nowadays it’s more limited in meaning.

“Some of the crime novels also deal with contemporary issues that are very real problems in the Nordic countries: our attitudes to immigration, trafficking, a crumbling of the welfare state due to economic meltdown, a growing sense of anxiety due to an increasingly globalised world, etc.”  he said.

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Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

A Scandinavian Suspense Story Quiz: Medium

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I have always been a fan of the “British cozy mystery”.  Think of Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple and you get the idea – a small town, amateur detective, confused police. I also like series with the same characters so I read a lot by authors such as P.D.James (Adam Dalgliesh), Ian Rankin (John Rebus) and Elisabeth George (Thomas Lynley).

A book by/a book from: If you say ‘a book by Paul’ you want to say that Paul is the author. If you say ‘a book from Paul’ you want to say that you got the book from Paul as a present

When a friend gave me Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, I was immediately hooked. And I’m not alone. Scandinavian crime literature has become hugely popular in the last three to four years. Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell and Arnaldur Inridason are just a few of the authors everybody wants to read now.

Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, Lecturer in Scandinavian Literature at the Department of Scandinavian Studies at University College London tells The Word, there have been many very good crime writers writing in the Scandinavian languages at least through the 1980s.

“Many of them have been very popular with readers in the Nordic countries and a good number have been famous in Germany and France,” he said. “The wave of Scandinavian crime fiction now reaching a global audience through English is a more recent phenomenon, which I believe started with the success of Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.”

TERMPlain means direct, straightforward, without any decorations or flavors, not complex, very ordinary

There are two main reasons for the genre’s popularity – plain, direct writing and the setting. It is usually a smaller town  with grey skies and  horrible weather. But how can countries which many people believe are the happiest and have the highest quality of life produce such scandalous crimes?

Mr Stougaard-Nielsen said:  “One can still fear crimes, corruption, and loss of family members even if it happens rarely in your society. One may say that because the Nordic Welfare States are fairly peaceful places to live, and because there still is comparatively low crime rates and corruption, these are the kind of places and settings in which a crime thriller would be most effective and disruptive.”

Another important point according to Mr Stougaard-Nielsen is that these crime stories are about more “modern“ problems like corruption, hacking and criminal gangs.

The popularity of the genre continues to grow. Now there are movies and also Danish television program The Killing. Maybe very soon there will even be sightseeing tours based on the books.

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

A Scandinavian Suspense Story Quiz: Mild

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I’ve always been a fan of what’s termed the ‘British cozy mystery.’ Think Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple and you get the idea – small town, amateur sleuth, baffled police. It’s formulaic, yes, but the character development with a bit of whodunit thrown in is a nice read for me. I also like reoccurring characters – which means I read a lot by authors such as P.D. James (Adam Dalgliesh), Ian Rankin (John Rebus) and Elizabeth George (Thomas Lynley). The crimes aren’t so sanitized in these stories, but there’s also more of a sense of place, especially in Rankin’s novels set in Edinburgh.

The author wrote “I read through them like a person addicted.” We can use adjectives after verbs if the relation implies a relative clause. In this sentence the author could say “I read through them like a person who was addicted.” But we can cross out the ‘who was’ and make the sentence punchier, more dramatic.

When a friend gave me Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, I read through them like a person addicted. I was immediately hooked, and went on the prowl for similar stories. And I’m not alone. Scandinavian crime literature has soared in popularity in the last three to four years. Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell and Arnaldur Inridason are just a few of the authors heating up the scene.

While non-Scandinavians may be wondering why there’s a rash of new writers all of a sudden from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and more, as Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, Lecturer in Scandinavian Literature at the Department of Scandinavian Studies at University College London tells The Word, there has been many very good crime writers writing in the Scandinavian languages at least through the 1980s.

“Many of them have been very popular with readers in the Nordic countries and a good number have been famous in Germany and France,” he said. “The wave of Scandinavian crime fiction now reaching a global audience through English is a more recent phenomenon, which I believe started with the success of Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Of course with the global attention, more writers, new as well as published authors in other genres, try their hand at crime writing as it is now a way to success and to make a bit of money.”

That is true – Mankell, for instance, wrote seven well-received but not commercially popular novels and more than a dozen plays before killing someone via his typewriter. Karin Fossum, another popular crime writer, was a prize-winning poet. Personally, Mr Stougaard-Nielsen says he enjoys reading Mankell’s Wallander books, the Norwegian writer Anne Holt and Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla.

Plain, direct writing is often pointed to as another reason for the genre’s popularity – as are the settings. Most are smaller towns, and coupled with grey skies and dreary weather combine to give an unusual setting – much like the British mysteries. But how can countries often ranked on global indices as being the happiest and with the highest quality of life produce such scandalous stories?

“Sometimes fiction presents us with an exact image of reality and real life, other times it gives us a less then reality based image where an author can draw on some of the fears all humans will have – even if they are unlikely to materialize in reality,” Mr Stougaard-Nielsen said. “One can still fear crimes, corruption, and loss of family members even if it happens rarely in your society. One may say that because the Nordic Welfare States are fairly peaceful places to live, and because there still is comparatively low crime rates and corruption, these are the kind of places and settings in which a crime thriller would be most effective and disruptive.”

Larrson’s trilogy also brought the crimes out of the small town and included what could be consider more ‘modern’ misdeeds such as corruption, hacking and criminal gangs. Mr Stougaard-Nielsen said it’s an important point to remember.

“Some of the crime novels also deal with contemporary issues that are very real problems in the Nordic countries: our attitudes to immigration, trafficking, a crumbling of the welfare state due to economic meltdown, a growing sense of anxiety due to an increasingly globalised world, etc.”

Scandinavian and Nordic: These words are often used interchangeably in English. Strictly speaking Scandinavia is the peninsula which includes Sweden and Norway, though Denmark, Iceland and Finland are included. Nordic was once broader and included anyone from Northern Europe. Nowadays it’s more limited in meaning

A look at the seedier side of Swedish life came back in the late 60s courtesy of journalists Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall. They co-authored a series featuring policeman Martin Beck which focused on the country’s welfare state.

The appeal of this genre continues to grow; now often through the movies that are being made from the books and the recent Danish television program The Killing. We’ll probably soon be seeing smart cities playing up the gory sights set in these books to tourists. And why not? Who hasn’t been inspired by a book or movie to see someplace new? Even if it is a grisly killing.

Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona

A Scandinavian Suspense Story Quiz: Spicy

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