Now that Fall is here, don’t you just want to cuddle up with an icy murder mystery, a mug of tea, warm socks and maybe a few lit scented candles – or simply what the Danish community likes to call “hygge“?
I say we thriller-aholics should immediately go for it! But today, we’re going to dive into a whole new realm of this genre: Scandinavian thrillers.
Scandi-noir, as you might know, has left its mark everywhere in the crime fiction world, from domestic thrillers to small-town serial killers. And I’m here to tell you which picks are the most deserving of your time!
Swedish thriller authors seem to be everywhere these days (not complaining here!), and debuts like You Were Made For This by Michelle Sacks represent a perfect example of successfully written suspense novels. And here are a few picks based in this country…
You Were Made For This – Michelle Sacks
You Were Made For This starts with a beautiful scenery that is a little red wooden house on a nature reserve bordering Sweden’s oldest town, Sigtuna, where a perfect family of three is living the perfect life.
And yet since the start, in the midst of all the perfection, you can’t help but feel like something’s not right within this family. This family’s secret, however, will soon threaten to come to light after the visit of a close friend, who will eventually overstay her welcome in a way that will trigger the family’s lifestyle in the most heart-thudding way.
This book will work perfectly for fans of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, and also for readers who enjoy unlikeable characters and families with dark secrets.
The Fifth Woman – Henning Mankell
In an African convent, four nuns and a unidentified fifth woman are brutally murdered–the death of the unknown woman covered up by the local police. A year later in Sweden, Inspector Kurt Wallander is baffled and appalled by two murders. Holger Eriksson, a retired car dealer and bird watcher, is impaled on sharpened bamboo poles in a ditch behind his secluded home, and the body of a missing florist is discovered–strangled and tied to a tree. The only clues Wallander has to go on are a skull, a diary, and a photo of three men. What ensues is a case that will test Wallander’s strength and patience, because in order to discover the reason behind these murders, he will also need to uncover the elusive connection between these deaths and the earlier unsolved murder of the fifth woman.
The Silent Girl – Hjorth & Rosenfeldt
An idyllic white, two-storey, beautiful house in Sweden. Inside, a family has been brutally murdered – mother, father and two young children all shot in broad daylight. And the killer has got away.
Sebastian Bergman has been brought in to solve the crime, but with no credible suspects, he is at a dead end.
Until he discovers that there was a witness to the crime. A young girl who saw it all happen, and she has disappeared.
Bergman has to track the young girl down before it’s too late. But the killer is chasing her too – and he is determined to finish what he started.
As I’ve mentioned before, the concept “hygge” might be familiar to you by now – it more or less consists of snuggling up to a good Scandinavian crime novel under super cozy conditions.
Mercy – Jussi Adler-Olsen
At first the prisoner scratches at the walls until her fingers bleed. But there is no escaping the room. She vows not go mad. She will not give her captors the satisfaction. She will die first.
Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck’s been taken off homicide to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes. His first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead. Everyone says it’s a waste of time. He thinks they’re right.
The voice in the dark is distorted, harsh and without mercy. It says the prisoner’s torture will only end when she answers one simple question. It is one she has asked herself a million times: WHY is this happening?
I’m sure you would’ve heard about Nordic-Noir by now, especially on bookstagram, where you can find numerous readers giving out the most entertaining recommendations of this genre.
The Boy At The Door – Alex Dahl
Cecilia Wilborg has the perfect life: a handsome husband, two beautiful daughters and a luxurious house in the picture-postcard town of Sandefjord – a peaceful summer town in Norway. But Cecilia also has a dark secret that is so damaging it can never be brought to light. Then Tobias – a friendless eight-year-old boy who wants to find a home – comes into her life. Tobias, though, is threatening to bring Cecilia’s world crashing down.
This book immediately draws you in from the very first page. The story is told from three main points of views – Cecilia’s, Tobias’ and Annika’s, and I personally felt a sudden urge to get to know these characters the moment they began to divulge their sides of the story.
Author Alex Dahl has the most stunning imagination I’ve ever encountered. Each event, character and action is deliciously structured and completely unpredictable.
Tobias is an 8-year-old who might make you feel nervous at first, but once his part of the story begins, you can’t help but want to find out more about his background and how his mind works!
This seems to be the year of deeply unlikeable characters (try books such as YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS, LYING IN WAIT and OUR KIND OF CRUELTY), and this is an essential element which thriller readers (me included!) seem to be strongly striving for lately.
The twists and turns in this book will make you sit up in your reading spot and stay alert until the ultimate big reveal!
I personally think that Ragnar Jonasson is one of the perfect go-to authors for all Iceland Noir enthusiasts!
Blackout – Ragnar Jonasson
BLACKOUT starts with an atmospheric scene featuring an American tourist driving around the roads in the Northern Iceland area. He’d been enjoying the passing scenery with the captivating fjords and dark green hills , when he pulled at the side of one street to witness a brutally murdered man lying next to a building site, on the safe grounds of Skagafjordur.
This is an Ari Thor thriller, but from an entirely different angle, an intriguingly fascinating character of a woman named Isrun investigates the same crime, independently.
The cast of BLACKOUT is an easily relatable one – most of it at least. The reason behind this is that the author thoroughly divulges to the reader the background of each character – one that is anything but perfect.
Despite the somewhat brutality and violence of the crime in question, the book does have a kind of soft edge to it; a moody and comforting side that describes the Nordic Noir genre perfectly.
Finnish thrillers might be some of the lesser known novels where it comes to this genre, but they can also be all about detective stories and brutal murders.
The Mine – Antti Tuomainen
In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life. A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results!
Do you guys have any exciting additions to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!