Call it "the genre literary movement 'the Girl' gave birth to". Though that's a bit misleading. Writers from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland have been plumbing the psychological depths of killers and cops for quite some time -- notably the writing team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, who combined for ten books featuring detective Martin Beck from 1965 to 1975. However, the category of crime writing now known as Nordic Noir didn't gain a huge following outside of its European origins until Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo achieved explosive international fame in 2008, with over 27 million copies sold in 40 different countries.
The elements that contribute to make Nordic Noir a distinctive subgenre of mystery/thriller are as follows: streamlined language, downtrodden, world-weary, troubled and often anti-social heroes, and settings of cool, dark climates with strong anti-political, anti-government social attitudes. Most of these elements are common to the traditional American "noir" novels -- think Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Patricia Highsmith, and Elmore Leonard. However, the one thing that differs in Nordic Noir from traditional American Noir is the somewhat scathing look at the contemporary Scandinavian socio-political world. For an intensely liberal, admired culture that enjoys a strong welfare state, there's a great deal of dissatisfaction and frustration with government, big business and traditional organizations of power and influence, including law enforcement! In addition to Stieg Larsson (who died in 2004) and Henning Mankell (whose deeply-troubled protagonist Kurt Wallander has been successfully interpreted on television by Kenneth Brannagh), some of the key authors in this increasingly popular new literary category are: Arne Dahl, Ake Edwardson, Karin Fossum, Arnaldur Indridason, Lars Kepler, Camilla Lackberg, Jo Nesbo, Hakan Nesser and Helene Tursten, though these just scratch the surface.
Here are links to a couple of excellent recent articles about the fundamental elements and best-known authors of what has become known as Nordic Noir: "Inspector Norse" in The Economist, March 11 2010 and Excellent article from Cleveland.com about Larsson opening the market.
All books in this list which are owned by Lincoln City Libraries are hotlinked to their entries in our library catalog, so that you may check on their current availability. The novels in this category are usually published in non-English languages, and often take a year or more to be translated for the English-speaking market. Some titles not owned by the libraries are included in this list due to their noteworthy nature, or their position as part of a series. If you see a title on this list that is not hotlinked to our collection, please consider ordering it through our Interlibrary Loan department.