Contemporary Scandinavian literature is having a huge moment internationally. The global rise of Nordic Noir, also known as Nordic crime fiction, has in some ways paved the way for literary Scandinavian fiction on the international stage. This is in no way an extensive list but may be a good place to start if you’re unsure of what to read. In this list, characters are racing against time to stop murders that threaten their community. They uncover secrets that will turn their whole worlds upside down, fracturing the cracks that may have already been there.
Two young women, who went to a party hosted by a notorious real-estate magnate, are missing. One woman is found murdered. The police discover an unusual signature and believe the killer will strike again. The police are running out of time. But the legendary Harry Hole, fired from the force for drinking himself to oblivion, is forced to return to the city and track down the murderer. To do so, he’ll have to bring together a misfit team to bring down an unstoppable killer.
Former police investigator Alexander Blix is being held in one of Norway’s high-security prisons for avenging his daughter. The other prisoners take every opportunity to challenge and humiliate him. Blix’s former colleagues are on the hunt for a terrifying killer—Walter Kroos, who escaped from a prison in Germany. The only chance they have of catching him is with Blix’s help, by finding Kroos’ friend in Blix’s prison ward. As Blix gets deeper into the investigation, he identifies a woodland community with deeply scarred inhabitants who foster deadly secrets.
A courier for the Press and Military Office in Sweden is killed on his last cross-border mission to Norway. Kai Fredly, a sailor, escapes occupied Norway into Sweden and finds out the murder of his Nazi-sympathizer brother is drawing attention. The Norwegian government wants to find out what happened to their courier and gives Jomar Kraby the task of finding the murderer. The Lazarus Solution is a dazzling historical thriller that brings a stunning exposé of Norwegian agents in Stockholm during the Second World War.
Danish literary author Hannah wrote novels that have achieved massive critical acclaim, but nobody actually reads them. When she expresses her contempt for genre fiction, the public challenges her to write a crime novel in thirty days. She accepts the challenge and goes to a quiet, tight-knit village in Iceland for inspiration. Two days after her arrival, the body of a fisherman’s young son is pulled from the water. Hannah’s search for plot material quickly turns into a dangerous investigation that puts everything at risk.
Nine-year-old Elsa, daughter of Sámi reindeer herders, sees a man brutally kill her beloved reindeer calf, and he threatens her into silence. When she’s brought to the local police, they tell her family they can’t do anything about these “stolen” animals. The killings keep piling up and the reindeer are not just a huge part of Sámi’s livelihood but also hold a spiritual significance. Ten years later, the hatred and threats only escalate even more, and Elsa decides to push back. The killer decides to come after her, leading up to a final catastrophic confrontation.
Eliel Zetterborg, a powerful executive, is murdered in his upscale Helsinki home. It seems like a straightforward case, until it becomes clear that the murderer has other targets. The only clue is a photo of Zetterborg with three men, whose faces have been scratched off. Jessica Niemi is taking time off work with the Helsinki police and her partner, Yusuf, is assigned to lead the investigation. But Yusuf realizes he needs Jessica’s help. Together, they realize that the evil they’ve been hunting has returned and is lurking in the shadows for the right moment to strike.
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Emily Hoang is a writer and editor, who is obsessed with haunted houses, ghosts, and dreams. More info can be found on her website.