The best Nordic noir books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Nordic noir and why they recommend each book.

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The Chestnut Man

By Soren Sveistrup,

Book cover of The Chestnut Man

It may be a cliche but my first experience with nordic noir was The Killing (Forbrydelsen). This Danish TV series in which inspector Sarah Lund goes in search of the murderer of a young girl fascinated me enormously. Not only because of the oppressive atmosphere that grabs you by the throat at times, but also because of the fantastic character development. The series was created by Søren Sveistrup, the author of the equally magisterial The Chestnut Man. The book begins when a young woman is found horribly mutilated in a playground on a chilly October morning. Next to her is a doll made of chestnuts and sticks. When a chestnut man is also found at the scene of a subsequent murder, it is clear that a serial killer is at work.

The Chestnut Man

By Soren Sveistrup,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NOW A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES

If you find one, he's already found you ....

From the creator of The Killing, “a full-throttle thriller in the tradition of classic Stieg Larsson” (A.J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window).

Winner of the Barry Award for Best First Mystery/Crime Novel * A New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year

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…


Who am I?

I'm an engineer with a PhD in electrical engineering and have spent more than twenty years of my career in the nanoelectronics industry researching how to create better electronic chips. The need to tell stories has always been there, but I never really envisioned a career as a writer. It wasn't until my 40s that I decided it was time to rekindle that passion for writing. I've always loved the dark atmosphere of Scandinavian noir TV series like The Killing and The Bridge with their often flawed and intriguing characters. So when I decided to write my first novel, it was almost a given that it was going to be a Nordic Noir thriller.


I wrote...

The Find

By Venezia Miller,

Book cover of The Find

What is my book about?

This Nordic Noir thriller follows a team of police investigators who try to catch a serial killer in the dark forests of Sandviken, Sweden, and it is the first book in a series of suspenseful novels set in the Far North.

During a hike, PhD student Alexander Nordin finds human remains. After discovering more bodies, the police realize they are looking for a serial killer. Inspectors Isa Lindström and her partner Magnus Wieland are assigned to the case. While their investigation soon leads to four families who spent their summer vacation together in the area, the search for the killer triggers a series of dramatic events with far-reaching consequences.

Until the Night

By Giles Blunt,

Book cover of Until the Night

Giles Blunt's books show that Scandinavia does not have a monopoly on Nordic Noir. In 2017 we were on vacation in Canada and quite by chance I saw an episode of Cardinal on TV. Only one episode from the first season, but enough to keep me captivated by the story set in the snowy landscapes of Algonquin Bay in Canada. I knew it was based on a book series. When I got home, I immediately found the author and started reading. I chose this book because of some amazing passages that capture the essence of Nordic Noir, among others a frozen body in the ruins of an abandoned hotel in the woods. The book presents a clever plot where seemingly unrelated threads are ingeniously weaved together. 

Until the Night

By Giles Blunt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Until the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's not unusual for John Cardinal to be hauled out of a warm bed on a cold night in Algonquin Bay to investigate a murder. And at first this dead body, sprawled in the parking lot of Motel 17, looks pretty run of the mill: the corpse has a big bootprint on his neck, and the likely suspect is his lover's outraged husband. But the lover has gone missing. And then Delorme, following a hunch, locates another missing woman, a senator's wife from Ottawa, frozen in the ruins of an abandoned hotel way back in the woods. Spookily, she was…


Who am I?

I'm an engineer with a PhD in electrical engineering and have spent more than twenty years of my career in the nanoelectronics industry researching how to create better electronic chips. The need to tell stories has always been there, but I never really envisioned a career as a writer. It wasn't until my 40s that I decided it was time to rekindle that passion for writing. I've always loved the dark atmosphere of Scandinavian noir TV series like The Killing and The Bridge with their often flawed and intriguing characters. So when I decided to write my first novel, it was almost a given that it was going to be a Nordic Noir thriller.


I wrote...

The Find

By Venezia Miller,

Book cover of The Find

What is my book about?

This Nordic Noir thriller follows a team of police investigators who try to catch a serial killer in the dark forests of Sandviken, Sweden, and it is the first book in a series of suspenseful novels set in the Far North.

During a hike, PhD student Alexander Nordin finds human remains. After discovering more bodies, the police realize they are looking for a serial killer. Inspectors Isa Lindström and her partner Magnus Wieland are assigned to the case. While their investigation soon leads to four families who spent their summer vacation together in the area, the search for the killer triggers a series of dramatic events with far-reaching consequences.

The Bat

By Jo Nesbø,

Book cover of The Bat

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.

The Bat

By Jo Nesbø,

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,…


Who am I?

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: Till Death Do Us Part

By PM LaRose,

Book cover of Beers on Ice: Till Death Do Us Part

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. 

The Fire Witness

By Lars Kepler,

Book cover of The Fire Witness

At a home for troubled girls, a young girl has been brutally murdered. One of the other girls has gone missing and the murder weapon is discovered in her bed. But is it really that easy? Detective Inspector Joona Linna pieces the evidence together.

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril. The Joona Linna series follows Linna, Detective Superintendent at the police's National Operations Department, and Saga Bauer, an Operational Superintendent at the Swedish Security Service. The diverse viewpoints and short chapters give an exciting and varied read.

The Fire Witness

By Lars Kepler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fire Witness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A terrifying new thriller in the the internationally bestselling Killer Instinct series: Detective Joona Linna finds himself on a collision course with a terrifying killer whose past is more troubling than anyone could imagine.

“One of those rare books that is truly difficult to put down.” —New York Journal of Books

A brutal killing spree at a home for wayward teens. One girl is dead, another is missing. Joona Linna scrambles to track her down before the death toll mounts.


Who am I?

I was born in Sweden in a northern fishing town. My parents come from Lapland. I always loved reading, especially crime novels. My parents used to drop me off at the local library and pick me up at closing time. When young, I worked for the local newspaper and had dreams of becoming a journalist. Instead, it became a corporate career with postings all over the world. When I picked up writing again in my early forties, it didn’t come together for me until I put a dead body in there, and thus I found myself writing thrillers. Nordic Noir is a genre I am particularly fond of. It is crime, where setting in the broadest use of the word (physical, mental, geographical, climate…) is allowed to take space. Below you will find five of my favourites. 


I wrote...

The Historians: A Thrilling Novel of Conspiracy and Intrigue During World War II

By Cecilia Ekbäck,

Book cover of The Historians: A Thrilling Novel of Conspiracy and Intrigue During World War II

What is my book about?

In 1943, Sweden’s neutrality is under pressure. Laura Dahlgren, the right hand of the chief negotiator with Germany is privy to ongoing discussions about German access to Swedish iron ore. When her former best friend and fellow classmate, Britta is discovered tortured and murdered, Laura becomes determined to find her killer. In the Swedish government, Jens Regnell, the secretary to the unpopular minister of foreign affairs, is becoming increasingly worried that his boss is secretly negotiating with the Reich. He is sent Britta’s PhD thesis on Scandinavian supremacy without understanding why. In Lapland, near the iron mine, Sami are mysteriously disappearing. Taneli, a young Sami boy, decides to investigate after his sister suddenly goes missing.

Together these three people will uncover a conspiracy that could topple their government and destroy their country’s identity – a conspiracy others are desperate to contain at any cost. 

Dark Pines

By Will Dean,

Book cover of Dark Pines

Welcome to wild and snowy Gavrik (aka “Toytown”), a rural village in Sweden where an unsolved murder may be linked to a modern-day crime. Deaf newspaper reporter Tuva Moodyson is afraid of the forest, yet she’s forced to follow a breadcrumb trail into the woods that leads her from one strange local to another – including a pair of sisters who craft troll dolls so unimaginably creepy they gave me nightmares. Dark Pines has a remarkable sense of place and drips with Nordic noir atmosphere. 

Dark Pines

By Will Dean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dark Pines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Selected for ITV's Zoe Ball Book Club and shortlisted for the Guardian's Not the Booker prize

A Daily Telegraph Book of the Year

'Will Dean's atmospheric crime thriller marks him out as a talent to watch. Dark Pines is stylish, compelling and as chilling as a Swedish winter.' Fiona Cummins, author of Rattle

'Atmospheric, creepy and tense. Loved the Twin Peaks vibe. Loved Tuva. More please!' C.J. Tudor, author of The Chalk Man

For fans of Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects and Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, a brand new debut crime writer introduces a Scandi-noir Tuva Moodyson Mystery…


Who am I?

Atmosphere can play a critical role in crime fiction, and I always find the most satisfying and memorable stories convey a strong sense of place. My own mysteries are set in the Thousand Islands, where many residents live in island homes built by gilded age titans of industry, and this setting is integral to Death in the Family and the entire Shana Merchant series. For twenty years I’ve been a regular visitor to the area, which extends from Upstate New York to Ontario, Canada. The human dangers in my books may be imagined, but the remote and rugged nature of the region always contributes to my contemporary, Agatha Christie-style plots. 


I wrote...

Death in the Family

By Tessa Wegert,

Book cover of Death in the Family

What is my book about?

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she's taken a job in her fiancé's sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor'easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow New York State investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses, and discover that murder is a family affair.

Sidetracked

By Henning Mankell,

Book cover of Sidetracked

Henning Mankell (RIP) was the master of the ‘troubled detective’ Kurt Wallander, who is trying to find a murderer while his own life is in tatters. This hunt for a serial killer who scalps his victims, is a rich tapestry of character development, police procedure, and a deeply disturbed killer. This is one of the finest stories of the dark Scandinavian crime thriller genre, and spawned a major TV series starring Kenneth Branagh.

Sidetracked

By Henning Mankell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Midsummer approaches, and Inspector Kurt Wallander prepares for a holiday with the new woman in his life, hopeful that his wayward daughter and his ageing father will cope without him.

But his restful summer plans are thrown into disarray when a teenage girl commits suicide before his eyes, and a former minister of justice is butchered in the first of a series of apparently motiveless murders. Wallander's desperate hunt for the girl's identity and his furious pursuit of a killer who scalps his victims will throw him and those he loves most into mortal danger.

WINNER OF THE CRIME WRITERS'…


Who am I?

Like most people I know, I have always been fascinated with serial killers, and more importantly why they do what they do. What makes one man murder multiple victims while another with a similar upbringing sells white goods and wouldn’t attract a traffic ticket. In my books, I am as interested in showing my readers why a killer kills, as I am in the hunt to catch him. My goal is to not so much get the reader to ‘like’ the antagonist but to understand, and dare I say even feel sorry for him. We are all products of our environment and upbringing, yet some of us murder others for fun.


I wrote...

Forever Night

By Stephen B. King,

Book cover of Forever Night

What is my book about?

Paul Williams is an ex-SAS soldier who suffered physical and psychological injuries during an Afghanistan battle. After his wife Amanda leaves him, Williams begins a search to find and murder her. The army has trained him never to fail, never give up, and survive at all costs, and he's determined to succeed. Using disguises, Williams passes for 'normal,' but he strikes ruthlessly when he finds any woman who resembles Amanda because he's incapable of mercy.

Williams has quickly become the worst serial killer in the State's history, and Detective Inspector Dillon Bradley heads a task force to stop him. But Williams has his own agenda, to cause as much havoc as possible. He'll succeed in locating Amanda or die trying and take as many police officers as possible with him.

Stockholm Delete

By Jens Lapidus,

Book cover of Stockholm Delete

Emilie Jansson, a newly made partner at a law firm in Stockholm, is asked to collaborate with Teddy, the firm’s investigator. Teddy is an ex-con trying to stay out of trouble. A body is discovered after what looks like an attempted robbery. An injured man found at the scene becomes the prime suspect. Emilie takes on the role of his defence lawyer. But then the trail leads back to Teddy...

Jens Lapidus used to work as a criminal defence lawyer at a law firm representing some of the most infamous criminals in Sweden. His background gives him unusual insight and his books feel very exciting and fresh.

Stockholm Delete

By Jens Lapidus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stockholm Delete as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stockholm Delete is a superbly gritty thriller which gets right to the heart of the Stockholm criminal world.

Emilie Jansson has just been made partner at a prestigious law firm when she is asked to work with an unusual partner. Teddy is an ex-con trying to stay on the right side of the law while working as the firm's fixer and Special Investigator.

Meanwhile, a body is discovered in a remote house in the country after what looks like an attempted robbery - and a severely wounded man found near the scene is soon in the frame for murder. Emilie…


Who am I?

I was born in Sweden in a northern fishing town. My parents come from Lapland. I always loved reading, especially crime novels. My parents used to drop me off at the local library and pick me up at closing time. When young, I worked for the local newspaper and had dreams of becoming a journalist. Instead, it became a corporate career with postings all over the world. When I picked up writing again in my early forties, it didn’t come together for me until I put a dead body in there, and thus I found myself writing thrillers. Nordic Noir is a genre I am particularly fond of. It is crime, where setting in the broadest use of the word (physical, mental, geographical, climate…) is allowed to take space. Below you will find five of my favourites. 


I wrote...

The Historians: A Thrilling Novel of Conspiracy and Intrigue During World War II

By Cecilia Ekbäck,

Book cover of The Historians: A Thrilling Novel of Conspiracy and Intrigue During World War II

What is my book about?

In 1943, Sweden’s neutrality is under pressure. Laura Dahlgren, the right hand of the chief negotiator with Germany is privy to ongoing discussions about German access to Swedish iron ore. When her former best friend and fellow classmate, Britta is discovered tortured and murdered, Laura becomes determined to find her killer. In the Swedish government, Jens Regnell, the secretary to the unpopular minister of foreign affairs, is becoming increasingly worried that his boss is secretly negotiating with the Reich. He is sent Britta’s PhD thesis on Scandinavian supremacy without understanding why. In Lapland, near the iron mine, Sami are mysteriously disappearing. Taneli, a young Sami boy, decides to investigate after his sister suddenly goes missing.

Together these three people will uncover a conspiracy that could topple their government and destroy their country’s identity – a conspiracy others are desperate to contain at any cost. 

Girls

By Frederick Busch,

Book cover of Girls

Girls is not written by a Nordic author but feels very Nordic Noir… so I am giving it an honourable mention. 

Jack and Fanny’s baby daughter has died, and they are struggling to cope. Jack, a Vietnam Vet, is trying desperately to find ways to bring them back together. A fourteen-year-old girl goes missing, and Jack turns his focus to finding her, as if this could be their redemption.

Girls is the perfect read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Clean prose, irresistible characters so finely drawn. Voices that resonate. Add to this a very suspenseful plot…

Girls

By Frederick Busch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book

In the unrelenting cold and bitter winter of upstate New York, Jack and his wife, Fanny, are trying to cope with the desperate sorrow they feel over the death of their young daughter. The loss forms a chasm in their relationship as Jack, a sardonic Vietnam vet, looks for a way to heal them both.

Then, in a nearby town, a fourteen-year-old girl disappears somewhere between her home and church. Though she is just one of the hundreds of children who vanish every year in America, Jack turns all his attention to this little…


Who am I?

I was born in Sweden in a northern fishing town. My parents come from Lapland. I always loved reading, especially crime novels. My parents used to drop me off at the local library and pick me up at closing time. When young, I worked for the local newspaper and had dreams of becoming a journalist. Instead, it became a corporate career with postings all over the world. When I picked up writing again in my early forties, it didn’t come together for me until I put a dead body in there, and thus I found myself writing thrillers. Nordic Noir is a genre I am particularly fond of. It is crime, where setting in the broadest use of the word (physical, mental, geographical, climate…) is allowed to take space. Below you will find five of my favourites. 


I wrote...

The Historians: A Thrilling Novel of Conspiracy and Intrigue During World War II

By Cecilia Ekbäck,

Book cover of The Historians: A Thrilling Novel of Conspiracy and Intrigue During World War II

What is my book about?

In 1943, Sweden’s neutrality is under pressure. Laura Dahlgren, the right hand of the chief negotiator with Germany is privy to ongoing discussions about German access to Swedish iron ore. When her former best friend and fellow classmate, Britta is discovered tortured and murdered, Laura becomes determined to find her killer. In the Swedish government, Jens Regnell, the secretary to the unpopular minister of foreign affairs, is becoming increasingly worried that his boss is secretly negotiating with the Reich. He is sent Britta’s PhD thesis on Scandinavian supremacy without understanding why. In Lapland, near the iron mine, Sami are mysteriously disappearing. Taneli, a young Sami boy, decides to investigate after his sister suddenly goes missing.

Together these three people will uncover a conspiracy that could topple their government and destroy their country’s identity – a conspiracy others are desperate to contain at any cost. 

I Remember You

By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir,

Book cover of I Remember You: A Ghost Story

No contemporary Icelandic literature without crime. Despite being one of the safest countries on the planet with hardly any crime, Icelandic crime authors are among the most successful representatives of Scandinavian noir, and Yrsa is the undisputed queen of Icelandic crime. While mostly know for her series featuring investigator Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, I Remember You is one of her standalone novels, a supernatural thriller set in the remote Westfjords of Iceland in winter and the perfect read when the wind and snow are howling outside. Or just the wind. 

I Remember You

By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Remember You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A terrifying ghost story from the Queen of Icelandic crime, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, author of the Thora Gudmundsdottir novels.

'Yrsa is one of the most exciting new voices in the crime thriller world.' - Peter James

The crunching noise had resumed, now accompanied by a disgusting, indefinable smell. It could best be described as a blend of kelp and rotten meat. The voice spoke again, now slightly louder and clearer:
Don't go. Don't go yet. I'm not finished.

In an isolated village in the Icelandic Westfjords, three friends set to work renovating a derelict house. But soon they realise they are…


Who am I?

I've always been a bookworm, and fascinated by the North—after all, I made my home here. I thrived (and still do) on stories about rain-drenched moors, ships in distress running aground in boiling seas, men with swords stumping through dark woods searching for gold and demons. So no wonder that I am fascinated by Iceland and its stories, and have returned to the island again and again. Here, literature plays a crucial role in preserving and developing culture and language equally. So as a fan of Icelandic past and present I try and spread the word about this craggy island and its literary heritage as much as I can. 


I wrote...

Iceland: A Literary Guide for Travellers

By Marcel Krueger,

Book cover of Iceland: A Literary Guide for Travellers

What is my book about?

A guide to Iceland's rich literary heritage written by a book lover. Iceland is a fascinating island of multiple identities, of constant flux, just like its unruly volcanic ground. Its literary heritage is one of Europe's richest and oldest: from the captivating Norse myths, which continue to inspire contemporary authors such as A.S. Byatt, to gripping Scandinavian crime fiction and Game of Thrones, via Jules Verne and J.R.R Tolkien, W.H. Auden and Seamus Heaney, Iceland's influence has spread far beyond its frozen shores. Peopled by Norse maidens and witches, elves and outlaws and taking the reader and traveller around the island through its literature, this is an enthralling portrait of the Land of Ice and Fire where (almost) everyone is a writer or poet.

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