Tag Archives: sweden

Scandinavian Authors List

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I’ve been enthralled with Scandinavian literature since long before most Americans even knew where Sweden was.  Well, at least since my first of many visits to my second adopted country, Sweden.  I’ve read just about everything I’ve been able to find written by any Scandinavian author that has been translated to English as my Swedish is not good enough to read more than a preschool book.

I’ve noticed that it can be difficult to find new authors to read once you’re hooked.  Partly because of the unfamiliar spellings and characters of ö Ö, ä Ä and å Å that are found in some Swedish names, not to mention the Danish and Norwegian letters of Æ æ and Ø ø.  I’ll spare you trying to pronounce them, other than to say if you get hooked on the amazing Norwegian author, Jo Nesbø‘s books and his main character, Harry Hole, know that Harry’s name is not pronounced like we would say it in English.  His name pronounce phonetically is:  Hahree Whoule or Who-leh as my Norwegian friend explained to me.

So, now that you’ve had a bit of a spelling & grammar lesson, I’ll get to the list of the Scandinavian (which includes Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland) authors that I have really enjoyed over the past several years.  Some you may have heard of already, like Stieg Larsson, but others may be new to you.  In no particular order:

This is just a small list of some of the outstanding Scandinavian authors (and I’ve not even started on Finland yet!) that you might like to check out.  The Icelandic books by Arnaldur Indridason have led me to put the unlikely spot of Iceland at the top of my “Places to Go” list and I can’t wait to visit beautiful Iceland.  But all of these authors have their own unique talents, some of a series working around a single character (which are my favorite types) while others keep the landscape the same throughout the books.

Regardless of how you decide to approach it, remember most of these books were written in their native language and translated into English.  This just means that sometimes, the sentences might be a little awkward or the dialogue might sound odd.  But that doesn’t take anything away from the brutal crimes in what the rest of the world thinks is the socialist paradise where everything is clean and the people are blonde and tall 🙂

Enjoy!  And please let me know if you have any suggestions to add to this list, I’d be happy to add on because I’m always looking for the newest books that have been translated so I can get my Scandinavian fix.

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The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt

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“The jogger ran north along the water’s edge, the sand heavy underfoot after the night’s rain. At the promontory he turned and headed back down the beach. In the distance he saw a figure walking towards him. Suddenly the person stumbled and fell, then just lay there not moving. Feeling uneasy, he ran forward.

‘Are you all right?’

The face that turned towards him was expressionless, the eyes cold.

For the jogger, time seemed to stand still. Deep down inside him something came alive, something he had tried to bury for years.

Then he saw the muzzle of the gun. It was pointed straight at him. He sank to his knees; everything in his mind went still.”

When I read this paragraph from the The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt,  I immediately began to picture myself on the Swedish island of Gotska Sandön, the most isolated island in the Baltic sea.  It is impossible not to be immediately drawn in to the story and while it is not  fast-paced, it is alive with suspense and mystery.  Jungstedt takes time to develop the relationships between the characters and is descriptive without being too wordy.  This is important to those who may be reading this book out of sequence as it is easy to catch up on the earlier back-stories of the characters so the story makes more sense.

The story starts off with carpenter, Peter Bovide, who is camping with his wife and two young children, taking a run along the beach in the early morning fog.  In the distance, he sees a stranger who appears to be in need of help, but when Peter approaches, he is shot in the head and several times in the stomach.  Anders Knutas, the Detective Superintendent of the local police department is on vacation so the crime scene is secured by his deputy, Karin Jacobsson.  Jacobsson is new to the position and is excited to lead such an important investigation but her joy is short-lived as Knutas abruptly cuts short his vacation and returns to the island.

The investigators, along with news reporter, Johan Berg, slowly begin to work their way through interview after interview of the victims family, friends and co-workers and it isn’t until another murder takes place that the motives begin to become clear.

While the book is well-written, some of the clues to solving the crime were a bit too obvious, however the plot was tight, flowed well and was logical.  Sometimes, the characters behaved a bit unprofessionally and maybe a bit unbelievable.  For example, I cannot imagine a detective going to confront a murder suspect without a weapon AND turning his cell phone off (or alone, for that matter).  I’ve noticed the lack of carrying a service weapon quite often in Scandinavian crime novels and I’m not certain if this is, in fact, the case or if the writers haven’t researched the actual police procedures.  It just comes across as a bit strange to readers in countries where the police are well-trained, well-armed and have strict investigation techniques.

There was an interesting (but timely) side story that touch lightly on the issue of foreign workers in Sweden.  Some of the attitudes sounded familiar and I found it interesting how many similarities between two seemingly very different cultures.  It also paints a very different side of Sweden, one that might be shocking to people who have not visited or are not knowledgeable about the Swedish culture.

The translation from Swedish to English was very good, though a lot of British-English phrases were used despite the translator being American.  Translated books often have a special charm and sometimes the sentences may come across as child-like and the sentence structure a bit awkward at times.  This doesn’t deter from the story itself, but is something to be aware of if the reader does not often read books translated from another language.

Swedish crime thriller author Mari Junstedt is is the author of the exciting & suspenseful  crime series featuring police detective Anders Knutas.  Since the 2003 release of Unseen (Den du inte ser), the first novel in the series, she has been recognized as part of the élite group of Swedish crime writers.  The Dead of Summer is the fifth book in Jungstedt’s Gotland crime series.

Translated by: Tiina Nunnally

Published by: Stockholm Text Publishing AB

Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 9789187173202

Imprint: Stockholm Tex Publishing AB

 

The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen

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The Gingerbread House

 The Gingerbread House 


by Carin Gerhardsen and Stockholm Text

If you like thrillers, mystery and being completely surprised at the end of the story, I think you will love The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen.  Gerhardsen skillfully crafted a thriller with a bizarre lot,a dark & dreary setting, with interesting and likable characters and managed to carry over the suspense when her book Pepparkakshuset (in Swedish) was skillfully translated by Paul Norlen into English.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I really enjoyed it.  Gerhardsen  has a writing style similar to some of my other favorite Scandinavian writers, Karin Fossum, Jo Nesbø and Åsa Larsson  I read The Gingerbread House while on vacation at the beach, a setting that couldn’t be further from the cold, dark Stockholm in winter, where this story takes place, but it was easy for me to immediately become absorbed in the story.

The Gingerbread House is the first in a series called The Hammarby Series, based around Detective Inspector Conny Sjöberg and his team solving cruel and brutal murders in the southern parts of Stockholm.   This evocative story explores schoolyard bullying among young children and the effect it has on them when people look the other way. Many of the scenes in this book are based on Gerhardsen’s own childhood, it is obvious with the depth & range of emotions and attention to detail.  She paints a picture in an urban setting with strong portraits of authentic characters crafted in-depth and detail, ensuring the books will linger in the reader’s mind long after they finish reading it.  I found this true!  My Swedish isn’t good enough to read the rest of the books in this series, so I will be waiting (im)patiently for the English translations.

The story starts out with a fairy-tale like description of a preschool just south of Stockholm. A stately building surrounded by tall pines, round corners and white posts making it sound like a wonderful place for young children to spend their days.  Gerhardsen goes on to describe a lively group of children bursting out of the doors, all bundled up in colorful winter gear, full of energy after a day of preschool and now on their way home.  Most of the children go running off to their homes. A few, however, linger behind, one of them being 6-year-old Thomas Karlsson, who quickly becomes the target for a brutal beating, even by preschooler-aged children standards and so begins the story.

40-ish years later, a chance encounter on a train brings Thomas Karlsson face-to-face with the lead bully all those years ago, “King Hans” as the children used to call him.  While Thomas lives in a dim, cramped room, all alone with no family, no friends, he can see that Hans appears to be healthy, strong and happy.  On a whim and without really even knowing why, Thomas decides to secretly follow Hans home. The next day, Hans is found murdered, head bashed in and his life over in a matter of minutes. Then follows a string of what seems to be unrelated murders of people in their forties.

The book switches between a number of characters: the murderer, the chief inspector, a detective, and at times, we are given an insight into the victims but it wasn’t at all confusing. I really understood the different perspectives of each character.  Each character has their own storyline going, but each story blends in to the main storyline quite well.  The book was exciting, just when I thought I had it figured out – I’d turn the page and couldn’t be more wrong!

I’ve been a huge fan of “Nordic Noir” as it’s been called since long before the whole “Stieg Larsson” craze (which I loved, by the way).  The Gingerbread House, is in fact, published by the same publisher & edited by the same team that produced “The Millenium Trilogy” with the wonderful Lisbeth Salander.  There’s just something about the Swedish culture that lends itself to taking what could be your run-of-the-mill mystery/thriller and turning it into something dark, mysterious and thrilling.  If you’re like me, a fan of mystery, thrillers and intrigue but like that little “extra something Scandinavian” thrown in, I think you will really enjoy this book.  Put it on your “must read” list, you won’t regret it!

Thanks to Netgalley and Stockholm Text for sharing the galley with me to read.