The best books by Scandinavian writers to get acquainted with

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been exploring Scandinavian authors for several years after working my way through the American masters of the genre (Chandler, McDonald, Parker, Burke, Stout, and others). For some reason, Scandinavians seem a lot more vicious in their writing, crafting murder scenes that are beyond gruesome. After reading the works of several Icelandic authors, I was inspired to go there and see firsthand what I was reading about, then to create my own mystery in that setting.


I wrote...

Beers on Ice

By P.M. LaRose,

Book cover of Beers on Ice

What is my book about?

A trip to Iceland is a happy occasion for Jim Biersovich and his friends. His sportswriter buddy Freddie is getting married. This destination wedding is also an adventure outing for the matrimonial party, as the bride-to-be, future groom, and their attendants enjoy the splendors of this island nation. There’s cave exploration, a glacier trek, a boat ride in an icy lagoon, hiking to a waterfall, and other pleasurable outings. The fun ends when a member of the wedding party dies under strange circumstances. It soon becomes apparent he was a homicide victim. A second murder, of a native Icelander, seems somehow connected. Those events imperil the ceremony and entangle the Beers Detective Agency crew in an international investigation that they once again must help solve. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

P.M. LaRose Why did I love this book?

I always recommend reading a writer from the first book in a series, so the saga of the character in development can be fully appreciated. Larsson’s Lizbeth Salander is one of the great odd characters in crime literature—a brainy, lethal hacker living in the shadows, exposing corruption, and making criminals pay. The Millennium series of three books is must reading for anyone who wants to dabble in Scandinavian crime novels. It’s an epic battle of good vs. evil that will immerse you in a world you’ll want to revisit occasionally.

By Stieg Larsson,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder - and that the killer is a member of his own tightly-knit but dysfunctional family.

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and…


Book cover of The Bat

P.M. LaRose Why did I love this book?

I wish I could write like Jo Nesbø. His detective, Harry Hole, faces the worst of the worst sadistic criminals and somehow succeeds, but not always without cost, both to himself and those near to him. In this first Hole story, the Oslo police detective is dispatched to Australia to investigate the murder of a Norwegian citizen. The case is complex, he falls in love, falls off the wagon, and finds suspects who later become victims. Nesbø has a way of keeping you guessing, with plenty of red herrings, a slew of suspects and many grisly deaths along the way. The prose is precise, inventive, compelling. In short, a master at the craft, even in his first story.

By Jo Nesbo, Don Bartlett (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Bat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HARRY IS OUT OF HIS DEPTH.

Detective Harry Hole is meant to keep out of trouble. A young Norwegian girl taking a gap year in Sydney has been murdered, and Harry has been sent to Australia to assist in any way he can.

HE'S NOT SUPPOSED TO GET TOO INVOLVED.

When the team unearths a string of unsolved murders and disappearances, nothing will stop Harry from finding out the truth. The hunt for a serial killer is on, but the murderer will talk only to Harry.

HE MIGHT JUST BE THE NEXT VICTIM.

Appearing in English for the first time,…


Book cover of The Keeper of Lost Causes: The First Department Q Novel

P.M. LaRose Why did I love this book?

I was particularly taken with this first Department Q novel because of the intensity of the characters. They inhabit a basement office as the red-headed stepchildren of the police department in Copenhagen. The head of the group is a gruff, jaded cop named Carl Morck. He gets assigned an assistant, a Muslim immigrant named Assad, who turns out to be more than the paper pusher he was hired to be. Together, they look into a cold case involving the murder of two young people, covered by a complex conspiracy of the rich and powerful. They form a powerful team, each with his own set of abilities and very different personalities. 

By Jussi Adler-Olsen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Keeper of Lost Causes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Get to know the detective in charge of Copenhagen's coldest cases in the first electrifying Department Q mystery from New York Times bestselling author Jussi Adler-Olsen.

Carl Morck used to be one of Denmark's best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl-who didn't draw his weapon-blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl's got only a stack of cold cases for company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at…


Book cover of Jar City

P.M. LaRose Why did I love this book?

Reykjavik Police Inspector Erlendur and his associate, Sigurdur Oli, are sent to investigate the murder of an old man bashed with an ashtray. They soon uncover his sordid past, in which he was accused of rape. Traipsing from clue to clue, interviewing tangential witnesses, they learn more about why he was killed and eventually discover the perpetrator, whose life was tragically altered by the actions of the murdered man. Erlendur and Oli are like the Odd Couple but complement each other in their work. The title refers to the practice of keeping organs in jars for medical research, which figures into the investigation. The journey to the solution of the case is very satisfying. 

By Arnaldur Indridason,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Jar City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An old man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat.

A cryptic note and a photograph of a young girl's grave are left behind.

DID THE DEAD MAN'S PAST COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM?

Inspector Erlendur discovers that several decades ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime. As he follows a fascinating trail of strange forensic evidence, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one man - dark secrets that have been carefully guarded for many, many years...
'A fascinating window on an unfamiliar world as well as an original…


Book cover of Snowblind

P.M. LaRose Why did I love this book?

Ari Thor, the newbie policeman of this story, takes his first job at a remote outpost in the far north of Iceland. Almost immediately, he is confronted with the suspicious death of the chairman of the drama group in the small town. Everyone in the troupe is under suspicion, and there are many secrets for him to uncover. His piecing together of disparate clues is similar to the way I try to craft my mysteries with my amateur sleuth.  

By Ragnar Jónasson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Snowblind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FIRST IN THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING DARK ICELAND SERIES

OVER A MILLION COPIES SOLD

A murder takes place in the isolated Icelandic town of Siglufjoerdur, where an avalanche has cut off all communication and the unrelenting snow threatens rookie police officer Ari Thor Arason first investigation...

'A modern Icelandic take on an Agatha Christie-style mystery, as twisty as any slalom...' Ian Rankin

'Ragnar J nasson writes with a chilling, poetic beauty' Peter James

'Seductive ... Ragnar does claustrophobia beautifully' Ann Cleeves

________________

Siglufjoerdur: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors - accessible only via…


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer goes missing and is feared drowned, Fin realizes that someone lured all the dead women into the dangerous rip currents. But who, and why?

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Iceland, criminal investigations, and police?

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