Nordic Noir (also known as Scandi Noir or Scandinavian Noir) is crime fiction, usually from a police procedural point of view, set in a Scandinavian or Nordic country. One of the major characteristics of Nordic Noir is the troubled, brooding and introspective protagonist. The atmosphere is bleak, dark, and ominous, creating a feeling of uneasiness that persists throughout the storyline. The settings, whether city streets or remote villages, are desolate and harsh.The cases themselves are vicious, shining a light on the darkest parts of humanity, whether that’s based in violent crime or political corruption.
If you’re looking for a dark, chilly read to set the right mood for October, pick one or more from this list; arranged by the author’s country of origin, most are part of a series (so if you like one, go for the others) and some are standalone novels.
The Chestnut Man : a novel by Soren Sveistrup
From the creator of the hit television show, “The Killing”, a full-throttle thriller soon to be a Netflix series. A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen. His calling card is a “chestnut man”–a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts–which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery–a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago. A tragic coincidence–or something more twisted?To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues.
The Considerate Killer by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
The fourth in a series led by the righteous Red Cross nurse Nina Borg. On her way home from a grocery shopping trip, Nina Borg is attacked from behind in a parking lot. Dazed and half-conscious, she hears her assailant ask for her forgiveness. Only later does she understand that this isn’t for what he’s just done, but for what he plans to do. As a Red Cross nurse, Nina typically finds herself fighting for others’ lives, not her own. For the first time, she’s the primary target of a hit, and it slowly dawns on her that this case is connected to a surprising and dangerous friendship among three young men from Manila. It’s a long way from Viborg to Manila, and yet Nina and her pursuer face the same dilemma: How far will they go to save themselves?
Hoeg, whose Greenland-set crime thriller “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” became a surprise best seller when it was translated into English in 1993, sparked America’s love affair with Nordic crime novels. Told from the precocious perspective of fourteen-year-old Peter, this novel is about three siblings and how they deal with their eccentric parents. Peter’s father is a vicar, his mother is an artisan, and both are equally and profoundly devout. The family lives on the (fictional) island of Finø, where people of all religious faiths coexist peacefully. When Peter’s parents suddenly go missing, Peter and his siblings fear the worst–has their parents’ relentless quest to boost church attendance finally put them in danger? Told with poignancy and humor, this is a fascinating exploration of fundamentalism versus spiritual freedom, the vicissitudes of romantic and familial love, and the triumph of the human spirit.
The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel
In this title in the Louise Rick series (named after the Danish homicide detective) the body of an unidentified woman has been discovered in a remote forest. A large, unique scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. Louise, the new commander of the Missing Persons Department, waits four long days before pulling off a risky move: releasing a photo of the victim to the media, jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation in hopes of finding anyone who knew her. The gamble pays off when a woman recognizes the victim as Lisemette, a child she cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Louise’s investigation takes a surprising turn when it brings her closer to her childhood home. And as she uncovers more crimes that were committed–and hidden–in the forest, she is forced to confront a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.
The Hanging by Lotte Hammer and Soren Hammer
This book introduces a brother and sister duo and the first in a solid series about the melancholy homicide chief at the Copenhagen Police Department. One morning before school, two children find the naked bodies of five men hanging from the gym ceiling. The case leads detective Konrad Simonsen and his murder squad to the school janitor, who may know more about the killings than he is telling. Soon, Simonsen realizes that each of the five murdered men had a dark and terrible secret in common. And when Simonsen’s own daughter is targeted, he must race to find the culprit before his whole world is destroyed.
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi-Adler Olsen
The first installment of Adler- Olsen’s Department Q series, features the deeply flawed chief detective Carl MØrck, who used to be a good homicide detective-one of Copenhagen’s best. Carl’s been selected to run Department Q, a new special investigations division that turns out to be a department of one. With a stack of Copenhagen’s coldest cases to keep him company, Carl’s been put out to pasture. So he’s as surprised as anyone when a case actually captures his interest. A missing politician vanished without a trace five years earlier. The world assumes she’s dead. His colleagues snicker about the time he’s wasting. But Carl may have the last laugh, and redeem himself in the process.Because she isn’t dead . . . yet.
Helsinki Noir edited by James Thompson
The 14 stories in this Akashic noir anthology provide a bizarre and gruesome window into the outwardly tranquil and snow-covered city of Helsinki. True fans of the macabre will enjoy some of the more disturbing tales, such as Jukka Petaja’s “Snowy Sarcophagus,” in which the bodies of two women are discovered preserved in life-size snowmen, and Antti Tuomainen’s “The Script,” which told from the point of view of a Finnish film and television producer who also happens to be a serial rapist.
Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason
Part of a series featuring detective Erlendur Sveinsson, the Reykjavik police are called on an icy January day to a garden where a body has been found: a young, dark-skinned boy is frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood. Erlendur and his team embark on their investigation and soon unearth tensions simmering beneath the surface of Iceland’s outwardly liberal, multicultural society. Meanwhile, the boy’s murder forces Erlendur to confront the tragedy in his own past. Soon, facts are emerging from the snow-filled darkness that are more chilling even than the Arctic night.
The Legacy: a thriller by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
The first installment in a fantastic new series featuring the psychologist Freyja and the police officer Huldar. The only person who might have the answers to a baffling murder case is the victim’s seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died. And she’s not talking. Newly-promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja for her expertise with traumatized young people.
Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson
Hailed for combining the darkness of Nordic Noir with classic mystery writing,Jonasson’s books are haunting, atmospheric, and complex.. Young policeman Ari Thór tries to solve a 50-year-old murder when new evidence surfaces. But the case proves difficult in a town where no one wants to know the truth, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.
I’m Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjork
In this a chilling and fast-paced thriller, the shocking murder of a little girl reunites Oslo police investigator Holger Munch and his brilliant, intuitive colleague Mia Krüger. When the body of the six-year-old is found, dressed in doll clothes and wearing the airline tag, I’m traveling alone, Mia spots the numeral one scratched on the girl’s fingernail and predicts there will be more such murders. The investigation eventually encompasses a nursing home, where aging residents are urged to leave their estates to a strange nearby church, and brings up a cold case from six years earlier in which an infant disappeared. And finally it turns personal, for both Munch and Mia.
In Dust and Ashes : a Hanne Wilhelmsen novel by Anne Holt
In 2001, three-year-old Dina is killed in a tragic car accident. Not long thereafter Dina’s mother dies under mysterious circumstances, and Dina’s father Jonas is convicted of her murder. Now it’s 2016, and the cold case ends up on the desk of Detective Henrik Holme, who tries to convince his mentor Hanne Wilhelmsen that Jonas might have been wrongly convicted. Holme and Wilhelmsen discover that the case could be connected to the suicide of an eccentric blogger, as well as the kidnapping of the grandson of a EuroJackpot millionaire.
Knife by Jo Nesbo
Inspector Harry Hole’s 12th case is his most grueling to date. Rakel — the only woman he’s ever loved — has ended it with him, permanently. He’s been given a chance for a new start with the Oslo Police but it’s in the cold case office, when what he really wants is to be investigating cases he suspects have ties to Svein Finne, the serial rapist and murderer who Harry helped put behind bars. And now, Finne is free after a decade-plus in prison — free, and Harry is certain, unreformed and ready to take up where he left off. But things will get worse. When Harry wakes up the morning after a blackout, drunken night with blood that’s clearly not his own on his hands, it’s only the very beginning of what will be a waking nightmare the likes of which even he could never have imagined.
The Whisperer by Karin Fossum
In this tense and twisty latest in the Inspector Sejer series from Norway’s maven of crime, time shifts between Sejer’s interrogation of the accused Ragna Reigel and the shocking events that led up to her arrest. How did this lonely, quiet woman come to kill a man–or did she?”
The Swedish writing partnership of Roslund and Hellstrom (a criminologist and an ex-criminal, respectively) has produced a series featuring Detective Inspector Ewert Grens of the Stockholm police. The action starts rolling with the arrest of John Schwartz, a musician on the ferry running between Stockholm and Finland, for assaulting a passenger. He eventually is found to have assumed this identity-in actuality, he is escaped con John Meyer Frey, who fled death row in Marcusville, OH, six years earlier. How this was accomplished, the reasons for it, and Frey’s journey from Sweden back to death row fill out the novel. Also included is a bit of social commentary on the evils of the death penalty.
In this landmark and unique publication, Sweden’s most distinguished and best-loved crime writers have contributed stories to an anthology that promises to sate the desire to read about the dark side of Sweden.
Hunting Game by Helene Tursten
The first installment in Helene Tursten’s brand new series featuring the strong, smart Detective Inspector Embla Nystrom. From a young age, 28-year-old Nystrom has been plagued by chronic nightmares and racing thoughts. A talented hunter and prize-winning Nordic welterweight, she is glad to be taking a vacation from her high-stress job to attend the annual moose hunt with her family and friends. But when Embla arrives at her uncle’s cabin in rural Dalsland, she sees an unfamiliar face has joined the group: Peter, an enigmatic young divorce. And she isn’t the only one to take notice. One longtime member of the hunt doesn’t welcome the presence of an outsider and is quick to point out that with Peter, the group’s number reaches thirteen, a bad omen for the week. Sure enough, a string of unsettling incidents follow, culminating in the disappearance of two men from a neighboring group of hunters.
Marked for Life by Emelie Schepp
Bestselling author Emelie Schepp introduces us to the enigmatic, unforgettable Jana Berzelius in this first novel of a chilling trilogy. When a high-ranking head of the migration board is found shot to death in his living room, there is no shortage of suspects. But no one expects to find the mysterious child-sized handprint in the childless home. A few days later, the body of a preteen boy is discovered, and with him, the murder weapon that killed him and the original victim. To protect her own hidden past, public prosecutor Jana Berzelius must find the suspect behind these murders, before the police do.
A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson
Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him? Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?
Easy Money by Jens Lapidus
From one of Sweden’s most successful defense lawyers comes an unflinching look at Stockholm’s underworld, told from the perspective of the mob bosses, the patsies, and the thugs who help operate its twisted justice system.
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
From the dean of Scandinavian noir, the first riveting installment in the internationally bestselling and universally acclaimed Kurt Wallander series, the basis for the PBS series starring Kenneth Branagh. It was a senselessly violent crime: on a cold night in a remote Swedish farmhouse an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. Unlike the situation with his ex-wife, his estranged daughter, or the beautiful but married young prosecutor who has piqued his interest, in this case, Wallander finds a problem he can handle. He quickly becomes obsessed with solving the crime before the already tense situation explodes, but soon comes to realize that it will require all his reserves of energy and dedication to solve.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson’s thrilling Millenium series featuring Lisbeth Salander.
Hour of the Wolf : an inspector Van Veeteren mystery by Hakkan Nesser
Former chief inspector Van Veeteren–a legend now in retirement–is called upon to face his greatest trial yet, when someone close to him is found dead. Veeteren’s former colleagues, desperate for answers, struggle to decipher the clues to these appalling crimes. As the killer becomes increasingly unhinged and unpredictable, Van Veeteren is forced to re-enter a world he left behind, and to avenge a death.
The Sandman by Lars Kepler
The Swedish duo, husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril who write under a single pseudonym return, and it isn’t pretty. Leading the cast in the fourth novel in the series devoted to him, the smart, steely detective Joona Linna is sure that the psycho he helped put away is still conducting awful business behind bars. It tells the chilling story of a manipulative serial killer and the two brilliant police agents who must try to beat him at his own game.
Some Kind of Peace by Camilla Grebe & Asa Traff
Sisters Grebe and Traff, a thriller author and a psychologist, combine their talents and training to create a psychological thriller starring a therapist as the lead character. It is the story of a young, recently widowed psychologist who is irrationally afraid of the dark and whose past comes to haunt her as she tries to solve a series of crimes, beginning with the brutal murder of one of her patients.
Stone Coffin : a mystery by Kjell Eriksson
International suspense superstar Eriksson produces another masterful work of murder, intrigue, and page-turning action in this thriller, which features his popular series-detective Ann Lindell. A young mother and her six-year-old daughter have been run down on a leafy road in Uppsala, Sweden. Ann Lindell and her police colleagues quickly conclude that the victims’ husband and father is the prime suspect; he has disappeared. But he turns up dead, too, an apparent suicide. Soon the body count rises to five, and Lindell and her team are investigating a pharmaceuticals firm, where the dead husband was lead researcher, and the possibility that they were doing illegal testing on primates.
-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian