By Sally Gracie
Swedish crime novels have made me put Sweden at the top of my bucket list and, besides the ants, have been my summer’s entertainment. The settings for the novels – the Swedish towns in all parts of the country – have captivated me.
The crime genre doesn’t always get respect, but these books (in translation) are well written. The characters and their lives are interesting and the plots are complex.
Today, I’m racing through the second Camilla Läckberg. I grabbed The Stonecutter from Twisp Library’s new book shelf.
Most of you have read Steig Larsson’s Millenium series trilogy, starring Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, so you realize it would be a mistake to read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest before reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Read the Swedes in order (see orderofbooks.com). Not following my own rule – Ice Princess is Läckberg’s first – I’ve devoured 327 pages of her second effort in a day.
I resisted reading Larsson’s books just because they were too popular. How good could they be if everyone loved them? When I finally got to the trilogy, I think I read all three in a week. I wanted more, but Steig Larsson is dead, so I had to find other books to satisfy my obsession.
Before Larsson and after watching the series on “Masterpiece Mystery,” I had already begun to read the Kurt Wallander books by Henning Mankell. Because Wallander’s personal life is as important to the novels as the crimes he solves, not reading the books in order was a mistake that you needn’t make. The Wallander series of 10 books begins with Faceless Killers and ends with The Troubled Man.
Because Mankell’s Wallander can be as depressing as the weather he suffers, Helen Tursten’s Irene Huss books, beginning with Detective Inspector Huss, provide some relief. Huss is one of the few fictional Swedes who has an ordinary home life – two daughters, a husband and a happy marriage.
The female protagonists – a detective and a lawyer – in Asa Larsson’s Sun Storm and the others in the series inhabit dark stories and lots of snow, but the series is addictive.
Lars Kepler is a Swedish crime duo’s pseudonym, and The Nightmare (begin with their first, The Hypnotist), a thriller featuring Detective Inspector Joona Linna, is a great read.
The partnership of Roslund and Hellström created page-turners like Three Seconds and Box 21. Other worthwhile Swedish crime novels are by Kjell Eriksson and Liz Marklund.
There has been a gap between the Swedish publication of these novels and the American translations becoming available – the first Wallander waited six years before appearing in the states in 1997. After the huge success of Steig Larsson’s books, American publishers are catching on, and the time lag is disappearing. It’s a good thing, too, as there’s nothing quite so addictive or so much fun as Swedish crime fiction.
Having read so many of these books about Sweden’s crime and its lousy weather, I hope on my travels to find out why the Swedes are so darn happy.
According to the United Nations Happiness Report, Sweden ranks in the top five. The United States is No. 17.