Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Andrew Nestingen and Paula Arvas, eds, Scandinavian Crime Fiction Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2011.

World crime fiction beyond the familiar Anglophone Poe to Paretsky reserve has been a theme of recent conferences and essay-collections, but this is the first to match-up with the remarkable publishing phenomenon of Scandinavian crime fiction in the last twenty or so years. There was, as in Germany, some crime fiction from that part of the world long ago —a case can be made for  the 1839 The Murder of Engineer Roolfsen being the first crime fiction novel of all, but by the twentieth century the influence of English amateurs and American private eyes had fallen heavily over crime writing around the Baltic and in the related culture of Iceland.

The big move was the ten novels written to a left-wing programme by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, 1965-75: they earned a world following, but local writers quite slowly followed up on their tough cop dramas with very strong social themes. Henning Mankell broke through, and then Stieg Larssen really made it, but there have been others, including some very effective women like Anne Holt, Liza Marklund and Camilla Läckberg. In the wake of Mankell and Larssen they and others have been widely promoted, with real success in the market, especially in the USA. This set of essays gives both detailed accounts of some of the major figures and useful survey essays of other elements of this new northern renaissance of cold weather -- and often rather glum -- criminography. Many of the essay authors work in Scandinavia, and some in the US Рthe editors are a neat split of the two locations, and their good range of topics and informatively serious writers makes this an important statement of a major new stage in world crime fiction.

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