Book review, Community

Book Review – “The Snowman”- Jo Nesbø; Harry Hole Series

Book review - The REDEEMER by Jo Nesbø, Crime fiction pick of the monthHarry Hole gets under your skin, and you feel ambivalent about him as a cop. There is much to dislike, in Nesbø tough, cool and marginal hero, but still we like him because he is almost as familiar as a dog-eared toothbrush. Just when you are feeling comfortable, it is at an end and time to start a new one.  And so it is with the Nesbø books.

They are fantastic reads, and one becomes so close to Harry, the central character, that one can predict his move, but then, he surprises us, with a twist we did not see coming.

As luck would have it, I have just finished reading The Bat, Nesbø’s first novel, (although published in English much later in the Harry Hole series), and The Snowman, refers to circumstances from The Bat, although I had no way of knowing that it would be releveant. Harry is convinced a serial killer is operating in Norway, and his expertise from his Australian trip (detailed in The Bat), both assists and  arrests progress in identifying the killer/s. (excuse the pun). An alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years, often occurring when the first snow comes to Norway…..

The house was large and yellow. Too big for a family of three, Harry thought, as they walked up the shingle path. Everything around them dripped and sighed. In the garden stood a snowman with a slight list and poor future prospects.

In an interview, Nesbø said he felt he went a little far in this and the next novel, The Leopard, which I am yet to read, and that he regrets that. He also said that the seemingly indestructible Harry will be killed off/retired in future novels.

There is some interesting commentary about policing in the novel when Katrine Bratt, a new detective from Bergen is assigned to help him on the case and when discussing whether beautiful people are more preoccupied with beauty than ugly people  obsessed with looking good even to the point of undertaking cosmetic surgery:

“I don’t know.” Karine said. “People with high IQs are so fixated on IQ that they have founded their own club, haven’t they? I suppose you focus on what you have. I would guess you’re fairly proud of your investigative talent.” 

” You mean the rat-catching gene? The innate ability to lock up people with mental illnesses, addiction problems, well under average intellect and well above average childhood deprivation?

Later in the book, Aune, Hole confidante and former psychological colleague, make a meaningful commentary about society, and punishment of crime.

 “The more aged I become, the more I tend to the view that evil is evil, mental illness or no. We’re all more or less disposed to evil actions, but our disposition cannot exonerate us. For heaven’s sake, we’re all sick with personality disorders. And it’s our actions which define how sick we are. We’re equal before the law we say, but it’s meaningless as long as no one is equal. During the Black Death, sailors who coughed, were immediately thrown overboard. Of course they were. For justice is a blunt knife, both as a philosophy and a judge.”

This story has the hallmark of Nesbø twists and turns, but the astute reader should be able to determine the culprits, despite the detours Nesbø puts in place. As one questions the various dances, the author makes his characters play, it is becoming easy to see I should listen to those questions more, if I want to solve the crime sooner.  Nesbø is a fantastic author and if you have never before read Scandinavian crime fiction, he is the one to read……

Rating:

The good: Descriptive, intriguing, and there is a snow man in the story!

The bad: Hole’s miscalculations and errors…. he is starting to slip up.

The Ugly: The crimes themselves……

9/10

Next on the TBR pile: Anne Holt 1222

Something to ponder about.

Book review, Community

Recommended Scandinavian Authors

blog pictures 001Until recently, I ran a Scandinavian book club amongst the Nordic clubs in my city. The book club was a success until everyone got too busy and decided to go home to Scandinavia for the summer. (Can’t say I blame them!) Over the years that it was active, I managed to accumulate a list of interesting authors, and at my blogger friend Poppy’s The Viking Queen’s suggestion, have published the below list according to country of author’s origin, for anyone who wishes to discover the wonderful world of Scandinavian fiction.*

  • My primary interest is crime fiction so be warned that this list is not exhaustive and is heavily biased towards  writers of crime fiction. Most of these titles have been translated into English.

I will reveiw Lars Kepler’s book in coming weeks.

Danmark –

Christensen, Lars Saaybe – Historical Fiction

Christian Jungersen – The Exception TBR
Sara Blaedel – Blue Blood, tr. Erik J Macki & Tara F Chace. Crime fiction featuring Louis Rick.
Elsebeth Egholm – Three Dog Night. An Excellent Writer

Friis, Agnete & Kaaberbol, LeneThe Boy in the Suitcase; Not a bad read

Peter Høeg – Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, (a great read) and others much more obscure
Steffen Jacobsen – When the Dead Awaken
Martin Jensen – The King’s Hounds, tr. Tara Chace

Lotte and Soren Hammer – The Hanging, tr. Ebba Segerberg

Jussi Adler-Olsen – Redemption

Dan Turrell – Murder in the Dark, tr. Mark Mussari

Finland –

Antti Tuomainen – The Healer tr: Lola Rogers  TBR

Leena Lehtolainen – Her Enemy, tr. Owen Witesman  TBR

Pekka Hiltunen – Cold Courage, tr. Owen Witesman TBR

Jokinen, Seppo  – Detective Sakari Koskinen series TBR

Iceland –

Arnaldur Indridason – Cold Crime/ police procedural series featuring Inspector Erlendur: at least one of which was made into a movie (Jar City)

Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson – Daybreak,  TBR

Halldor Laxness – Iceland’s Bell and Atom Station (historical fiction; depicts Icelandic rural life)

Yrsa Sigurdardottir – Someone to Watch Over Me TBR

Norway –

Thomas Enger – Burned

Karin Fossum – I Can See in the Dark, tr. James Anderson. Crime Fiction. Often writes about people on society’s fringe. Inspector Konrad Sejer series

Jostein Gaarder – Sophie’s World – Fiction story that introduces you to philosophy in a fascinating way.

Knut Hamsun – Hunger; I would get shot for not mentioning it, and drawn and quartered for saying that it was boring, my apologies to all Norwegians, but,as it was considered a landmark in literature, it is listed here.

Gaute Heivoll – Before I Burn, tr. Don Bartlett

Anne Holt – Crime fiction from a former Norwegian Minister for Justice including the Hanne Wilhelmson detective series and characters: Former FBI profiler Johanne Vik & Detective Inspector Adam Stubo

Jorn Lier Horst – Closed for Winter, tr. Anne Bruce. Character: Chief Inspector William Wisting, Larvik

Jan Kjaerstad – The Conqueror

Gunnar Kopperud – Historical fiction and politics intertwined. Should be just my thing but “The Time of Light” is violent and not my favourite book, but listed here anyway)

Jo Nesbo – Thriller/crime fiction series with Detective Harry Hole. Also stand alone novel “Headhunters” was made into a movie in 2011

Per Pettersen – Out Stealing Horses and To Siberia (set in Denmark during WWII)

Gunnar Staalesen – Cold Hearts, tr. Don Bartlett

Linn Ullman – Daughter of actress Liv Ullman, novelist. Stella Descending is a good read.

Sweden –

Karin Altvegen – Shame, Shadow:- psychological thrillers

Ake Edwardson, – Series of crime fiction including Death Angels

Kerstin Ekman,

Kjell Eriksson,Crime series

Marianne Fredrikkson – Hanna’s daughters: Wonderful story of three generations of woman. Excellent fiction. ‘Simon & the Oaks’ was made into a movie in 2011

Grebe & Traff – More Bitter Than Death

Marie Hermanson – The Devil’s Sanctuary, tr. Neil Smith

Published in the US only (at the moment):  Anna Jansson – Strange Bird, tr. Paul Norlen, Stockholm Text

Mari Jungstedt – The Double Silence, Unseen, Unspoken. (Crime Fiction)

Mons Kallentoft – Savage Spring, tr. Neil Smith; Midwinter Sacrifice

Lars Kepler – The Fire Witness, The Hypnotist (currently reading, and reads well, scarey, and a bit bloodthirsty in parts)

Camilla Lackberg – Journalist Erica Falck crime fiction series set in Fjallbacka, Sweden Light crime fiction where the characters become more like old friends

Jens Lapidus – Never F**k Up (apa Never Screw Up), tr. Astri von Arbin Ahlander

Stieg Larson – Lisbeth Salander Trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, well you know the rest…..

Åsa Larsson – Rebecka Martinsson series of detective novels.

John Ajvide Lindqvist – Let the right one in- Story about vampires, but don’t let that put you off. I would never read books on vampires, but this one is very different and was also made into a movie, and remade into an American movie.

Henning Mankell – Very popular crime fiction writer. A multitude of books, and TV series (Swedish/English)

Liza Marklund – Very popular crime fiction with the character: Annika Bengtzon (journalist) Also a TV series

Anders de la Motte – Game, tr. Neil Smith

Håkan Nesser – Set in a fictional town in Sweden with Inspector Van Veteran (police procedural/crime fiction with cutting sardonic wit)

Woman with Birthmark, The Return

Kristina Ohlsson – The Disappeared, tr. Marlaine Delargy

Leif Persson – Linda, as in the Linda Murder

Roslund & Hellstrom  – Fictional character Detective Inspector Ewert Grens. – in my TBR pile.

Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo – A timeless Martin Beck police procedural and crime fiction series written in sixties/seventies

Alexander Söderberg – Set in the South of Sweden

Johan Theorin – The Darkest Room. Creepy thriller/crime fiction set on Gotland, an island off the coast of Sweden

Tursten, Helene – crime fiction featuring  Inspector Huss, Gothenburg

Worthy also of note:

Andrew Stevensen – Non- Fiction; “Summer light”; A Walk across Norway. Not a Norwegian writer, but nevertheless great travel account.

Thunder God – a historical fiction novel about the Vikings and what it was like to live in those times. Loved this one, was really in the moment with the character.

Some more authors that I am not so familiar with:

Tor Age Bringsvaerd – science fiction literature – Norwegian
Ingvar Ambjörnsen – Elling series – one has been made into a movie
Anne B Ragde
Zoë Ferraris
Roy Jacobsen
Erlend Loe
Louis Masterson
Sulaiman Addonia
Margit Sandemo
Dag Solstad – • Professor Andersen’s Night

And if you like those books, you probably would also like this one, which is  more a travel book, but its non-fiction theme is Scandinavia.

True North – Gavin Francis  Travels in the Arctic, following the travels of ancient Nordic explorers.

I recommend checking out Karen over at Euro crime for seeking details of other Scandinavian authors and further listings of individual Scandinavian titles to ponder about.