This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of one of the most famous Nordic thrillers around. Centring around Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, the book follows him as he researches a mysterious disappearance that has remained unresolved for nearly 40 years. It is then that he enlists the help of ‘the girl with the dragon tattoo’: misunderstood genius Lisbeth Salander. Larsson manages to create some flawed – but utterly memorable – characters, and chances are you’ll be enthralled from the start.
Dubbed as ‘the godfather of Swedish crime writing’ and ‘master of suspense’, Faceless Killers is the first book in Mankell’s ‘Kurt Wallander’ series – arguably one of the greatest characters in modern crime fiction. The popularity of the books resulted in a TV adaptation in the form of a series starring Kenneth Branagh. Faceless Killers is grim, and at times depressing, starting with an elderly farmer who is bludgeoned to death and a dying wife who mysteriously utters “foreign” as her last word. The plot line is, however, very well-woven and manages to reflect the state of society.
Hailing from Norway, Jo Nesbo has really made a name for himself with a series of books about Harry Hole – an unorthodox but excellent investigator. If you’re yet to read any of his work, start with the first in the Harry Hole series: The Bat, where he is sent to Sydney to investigate the murder of a young female Norwegian B-list celebrity, Inger Holter. With violence and a gripping plot, this book will have you up all night, feverishly turning the pages.
The Mind’s Eye is a 1993 novel within the ‘Van Veeteren’ series, and was translated into English in 2008. The book has an intriguing start which will capture you from the offset: a man wakes from a drunken stupor, only to find his wife dead in the bath. He is convicted of the crime, but then he himself is murdered. Author Hakan Nesser is a former school teacher, and this comes through in the meticulous way he handles his texts. Despite this, everything he writes is heartfelt, and you could find yourself understanding and feeling sorry for some real villains.
Blackwater is a good example of a Nordic thriller set in a more rural and sparsely-populated setting, which lends a chilling atmosphere to the tale. Loosely based on a true story, this has been a classic and extremely popular book in Sweden for many years. The story revolves around Annie Raft and her daughter Mia, who stumble upon a gruesome double murder in the deep forest. Nearly twenty years later, Annie sees her grown daughter in the arms of someone she recognises – was it the man she caught a glimpse of in the forest on that haunting summer night? This captivating book will appeal even to readers who usually shy away from thrillers.
This book was the debut novel from Indrioason, whose work has since created an international sensation. Ultimately, the book is a ‘whodunit’; a lonely old man is found murdered in his Reykjavik apartment, along with a cryptic note and a subsequent trail of fascinating forensic evidence. It feels as if each page has a twist and turn, and the author manages to keep the entire mystery under-wraps until the very end. He also skilfully manages to give the reader what feels like a free trip to Iceland, by beautifully depicting the landscapes, culture and society.
She’s only recently turned 40, but Lackberg is already being hailed by many as “the Swedish Agatha Christie”. Unlike Jar City (above), her books often let the reader know who committed the crime fairly early on, but leave you wanting to read on to see if they will get their comeuppance. Yet The Ice Princess is, at times, every bit as grim and violent as some of the other books mentioned here. Set in a small Swedish town, Detective Patrik Hedstrom leads the investigation of what appears to be the suicide of a young woman – the best friend of the main character, Erica. The Ice Princess is part romance, part mystery, and should be on the list of any thriller fan.
Which Nordic Thriller would you recommend? Let us know in the comments box below.