For a country with such a tolerant and liberal reputation, Sweden has a lot of murders—on paper. In striking contrast to the flat-packed cheeriness of IKEA, the country’s other major export is crime fiction. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) and Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander books are bestsellers here in the States. Both series have been adapted for the screen and the movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in theaters now. Larsson and Mankell are the best known, but other frequently recommended writers are Hakan Nesser, Ake Edwardson and Kjell Eriksson. Karin Alvtegen, the great-niece of Pippi Longstocking’s creator, Astrid Lindgren, has been nominated for an Edgar Award for her mysteries. If you want to go back a bit, DCPL has copies of the Martin Beck mysteries of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, a Swedish couple credited with influencing this new generation.
An article in the Economist triggered my interest in these books. I’d noticed a lot of book jackets with Scandinavian names on them going by me at work (some of them are Norwegian – Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum, K. O. Dahl) but didn’t realize how extensive and well-regarded Swedish crime fiction has become. Since these writers are frequently compared to old favorites of mine, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, I am looking forward to spending the summer reading about long, deadly winters.