It’s that time of year: too cold for outdoor activities, too dark to go out late, and too tired from all the holiday festivities! All we want to do is burrow under the covers with a good book and be transported… to a world that’s even colder and darker!
Here at Booksio, we’re big fans of “Nordic noir” books. Never heard of them? Nordic noir is a popular Scandinavian crime fiction genre typically featuring dark storylines and bleak settings. Whether on a snowy mountain in Finland or the shadowy streets of Copenhagen, Nordic authors have been churning out atmospheric and riveting crime thrillers for decades, and we all get to join in the fun. If you love crime fiction and police procedurals but you’ve never read Nordic noir, now is the time to jump in the frozen pool!
From classics to new releases, here are five recommendations from the Booksio staff that you’re sure to love:
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Now, this blockbuster, along with its two sequels, is arguably the starting point for any Nordic noir literary exploration. In his anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander, Larsson creates one of the most riveting characters in crime literature. Set in Sweden, the story follows a disgraced investigative journalist who teams up with Salander, an antisocial but brilliant hacker, to track down a sadistic killer in a decades-old cold case. Sound complicated? It is! But we promise, you won’t be able to put it down.
Geiger by Gustav Skördeman
An incredible debut just published in 2022, Geiger is an exciting addition to the Nordic noir pantheon. Set during a beautiful Stockholm summer, the story follows Agneta and Stellan Broman who have just waved off their daughters and grandchildren when the landline phone rings. The caller says just one word: "Geiger." Agneta hangs up, finds her old pistol, kills her husband of fifty years and then disappears from their home without a trace. Want to know more? Follow the police as they unwind a mystery involving Cold War ideologies and Agneta’s tragic childhood.
Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
When first published in 1992, this classic Nordic crime thriller became an international sensation and was heralded as one of the best books of the year! The novel follows caustic Smilla Jaspersen who discovers that her neighbor – a neglected six-year-old boy, and possibly her only friend – has died in a tragic accident. But a peculiar intuition tells her it can be only one thing: murder. Høeg creates one of the most indelible female detectives of all time, and the story will keep you guessing until the final page.
The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson
Possibly the best Nordic noir writer working today, Jonasson just published this “landmark of crime fiction” in 2022. The story follows Una, a financial and romantically lost young woman seeking employment as a teacher in a remote Icelandic village. As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself drinking her loneliness away and plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress. When a sudden tragedy echoes an event long buried in the past, the villagers become guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth.
The Bat by Jo Nesbo
The book that started it all for Nesbo’s beloved Inspector Harry Hole! In this electrifying first installment, Jo Nesbo follows Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad who is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. As he circles closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the murder. What he discovers is a string of unsolved murders that lead to a psychopath working his way across the country. Don’t worry – if you get hooked on Nesbo’s main character or razor sharp plotting, there are plenty more books where The Bat came from!
This is just the tip of the iceberg! Want more recommendations for great Nordic noir crime fiction you can curl up with on a cold winter’s night? Go to Booksio’s homepage where we are featuring Nordic noir this month!