Springtime and Scandinavian crime

Its such a relief to be finally coming out of winter. I enjoy Britain’s changing seasons, winter included, but there’s something about February which generates a longing for warmer days and a bit of sunshine. Now at last we seem to have turned the corner – and it happened around the Vernal Equinox as well which seems very fitting.  I took this photo in a village near here, and it shows one of the few round-towered churches built in England.

Piddinghoe, East Sussex

I don’t read a lot of crime novels, but when I do, I focus on books by Ruth Rendell, Frances Fyfield, Elizabeth George and P D James (why are so many top-rate crime writers female?).  Over the last month however, I’ve been reading Scandinavian crime and discovering a whole new world of high-quality thrillers which kept me turning the pages of my Kindle.

First I read Hypothermia by Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason, a slow burning story which develops like a jigsaw – lots of small episodes which build up a complex picture, only to be completed when the last piece slots into place.  Indriadson sets a slow almost meditative pace with time shifts and scene changes, with the austere scenery of Iceland making a very frosty backdrop to Detective Erlendur’s investigations. His seemingly disconnected episodes confuse the reader at first, but you soon learn to stop worrying about how they all fit together and just let the story seep into your brain until it begins to make sense.

I wondered how Icelandic fiction would differ from that of other nations, and I have to say, Idridason certainly captures the village-like “huddling together” of small communities, nestling against the terrible weather and the bleak mountains and dark lakes.  Indridason has a very distinctive voice and the sense of extreme cold pervades the novel as the title suggests.

Next I read The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian writer who’s sales of over 3.5 million books worldwide suggest that this post will be saying nothing new.  But what a fine writer he is (and thanks to Don Bartlett whose translation tackles some difficult problems such as seamlessly translating Norwegian puns and verbal jokes into English equivalents).

We are on serial killer territory here – apparently a new concept to Norway, but Detective Harry Hole has trained with the FBI and has some knowledge of the subject which he uses to good effect in tracking down the sick mind behind the building of a snowman to mark each scene of crime.  This is a long book and my only problem with is was that it made me distinctly anti-social for a few days as I was drawn into one fascinatingly nasty scene after another.

If you’re trying to get through a seriously long “to be read pile” as I am, you have a problem when something this good comes along and disrupts your reading schedule.  Should I abandon all thoughts of reading anything more serious and devote myself to Scandinavian crime? It would be an easy thing to do with writers as good as Indriadson and Nesbo. One thing for sure, I think the grand dames of English crime writing will find themselves up against serious competition as publishers fall over themselves to fill our shelves and e-readers with icy crime novels from northern Europe.

Finally, on the Kindle topic again, I’ve had it three months now and its now something I carry around everywhere.  I took it with me to Gatwick Airport yesterday evening and used it while I was waiting in the arrivals area to meet a friend.  I could have done the same with a book of course, but there’s a sort of attachment going on there  which makes me wonder if I’ve bonded with the thing on a deeper level – a slightly scary thought.  I think its the way you carry your library around with you that appeals.  Many readers have found its great for travelling (Random Jottings for example) and I’m looking forward to taking it to France and Germany this year fully loaded with some choice books and articles.

12 comments to Springtime and Scandinavian crime

  • Tom, I loved the pic. Makes springtime seem so lovely. As for the Nesbo, I’ve heard some great things about The Snowman – glad to see they were right. I’ll have to add that one to my Kindle. And I know what you mean about getting attached to the Kindle – its hard not to. The idea of carrying my library with me wherever I go is quite nice. I always have mine in my handbag.

  • Oh don’t gloat … spring for you means autumn for us. I like autumn but not so thrilled about winter. Daylight savings ends next week. Wah!

    BTW I feel attached to my Kindle too though don’t use it as much as you. It is the book I mostly carry around with me.

  • wonderful see some more sun tom ,I love clocks going forward not a winter person some good books there ,all the best stu

  • Tom

    Hi Stu – thanks for visiting. Shame about the weather, but that’s Britain for you!

  • Tom

    Thanks for visiting Sue – well, we’re back to a few days of gray and dull weather now, so no joy there. I suspect an Australian winter is pleasanter than a British summer

  • Tom

    Nadia – thanks for visiting. I’m now going to read another Nesbo – they’re quite cheap on the Kindle

  • I’ve been reading a lot of crime novels this year, but I’ve yet to venture into Scandinavian crime fiction, not sure why.

  • I wonder where on earth Jo Nesbo’s 3.5 millions sales have been as I’ve recommended him to so many people that eithe rhaven’t heard of him or had just seen the books recently on sale in the supermarket. I’m glad Don Bartlett is getting praise for his translation work as it’s top notch.

  • Tom: I’ve very attached to my kindle, so I know the feeling.

  • Tom

    Guy – sorry for the delay in replying – I’ve been away from the computer.

  • Nesbo’s very well regarded but curiously has never tempted me. Indridason is good. I read Jar City last year (or earlier this) and have the second lined up on my kindle.

    I thought I was subscribed to new posts here you know, and just figured there hadn’t been any for a while. Oops. I’ll need to see what I was missing now.

  • Tom

    Max – there’s something wrong with my subscription module and I need to do some rooting around to sort it out I think. Later today hopefully

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