The most recommended Nordic noir books

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to Nordic noir, and here are their favorite Nordic noir books.
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Book cover of One Step Behind

Stefan Ahnhem Author Of Victim Without A Face

From my list on crime for those who say, "I don't read crime fiction".

Why am I passionate about this?

In my career, first as a screenwriter for film and TV and now as a crime writer, I learned early on that you must never bore your audience. I want to entertain my readers, so my stories should always keep them glued to the pages. However, the reader should also be left with new reflections after finishing the book. Crime fiction is often perceived as nothing but plot, action, and blood, without any depth or character development at all. I beg to differ. My list presents five books proving that crime fiction can be both intriguing, nerve-wracking, and mind-blowing while simultaneously serving as the perfect mirror of the world we're living in today.

Stefan's book list on crime for those who say, "I don't read crime fiction"

Stefan Ahnhem Why did Stefan love this book?

The first book I read by the Swedish master of suspense.

There's nothing like being caught by a good book: Just one more chapter, even though it's the middle of the night and work starts in three hours.

Almost like getting kidnapped with a small but significant difference: you don't want to be released.

Without Mankell, there would be no Millennium series, and this book is one of the reasons I started to write in the same genre. It's a long but, at the same time, quick read.

The characters are portrayed as real human beings with multiple flaws and shortcomings. I don't want to reveal the plot here, but I promise you: this murder case is like nothing else.

It was Nordic Noir before the genre got its name.

By Henning Mankell, Ebba Segerberg (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is Midsummer's Eve. Three young friends meet in a wood to act out an elaborate masque. But, unknown to them, they are being watched. Each is killed by a single bullet.

Soon afterwards, one of Inspector Wallander's colleagues is found murdered. Is it the same killer, and what could the connection be? In this investigation Wallander is always, tantalisingly, one step behind.


Book cover of Until the Night

Venezia Miller Author Of The Find

From my list on Nordic Noir to get you hooked on this genre.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Venezia's book list on Nordic Noir to get you hooked on this genre

Venezia Miller Why did Venezia love this book?

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. 

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…


Book cover of The Chestnut Man

Venezia Miller Author Of The Find

From my list on Nordic Noir to get you hooked on this genre.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Venezia's book list on Nordic Noir to get you hooked on this genre

Venezia Miller Why did Venezia love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Dark Pines

Victoria Goldman Author Of The Redeemer: A Shanna Regan murder mystery

From my list on crime thrillers with a journalist sleuth on a mission.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wanted to write crime fiction from a young age. I took a Biomedical Science degree, hoping to follow this with a PhD in Forensics but soon realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my working life in a lab. So I took a Master’s degree in Science Communication and became a health journalist and editor instead. I knew my own crime novel needed to feature a journalist. My main character, Shanna Regan, has spent her life travelling, whereas my own job has always been desk-based in the UK. Maybe this is why I love reading crime novels that whisk me off to other countries (in my head)!

Victoria's book list on crime thrillers with a journalist sleuth on a mission

Victoria Goldman Why did Victoria love this book?

I enjoy reading crime novels that feature other cultures or countries. Dark Pines (and the series that follows) whisked me off to deepest, darkest Sweden.

The main character, a local reporter called Tuva Moodyson, is a strong female lead. She’s young, feisty and tenacious. Her deafness makes her multidimensional, overcoming life’s challenges, without author Will Dean resorting to common tropes of crime fiction protagonists (e.g. cynical, alcoholic detective).

Dark Pines features a host of memorable and eccentric characters in a creepy and claustrophobic small town, giving this quirky book a Twin Peaks vibe. For me, the setting was a character in its own right – with the visceral descriptions of the dark pine forests.

By Will Dean,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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…


Book cover of Girls

Cecilia Ekbäck Author Of The Historians: A Thrilling Novel of Conspiracy and Intrigue During World War II

From my list on Nordic noir from a Nordic noir fan.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Cecilia's book list on Nordic noir from a Nordic noir fan

Cecilia Ekbäck Why did Cecilia love this book?

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…

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…


Book cover of Is Mother Dead

Patricia Duncker Author Of Sophie and the Sibyl: A Victorian Romance

From Patricia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Academic Crazy cat lady Opera fanatic Deep reader

Patricia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Patricia Duncker Why did Patricia love this book?

Why isn’t there a question mark in the title? The bright cover caught my eye. Vigdis Hjorth is a leading novelist in Norway. She creates three vivid characters: Mother, Sister, Daughter, and this is a stalker story of familial retribution.

The abused and abandoned daughter is our compelling narrator: she seeks recognition and revenge. Hjorth uses the metaphors from Scandi-Noir crime fiction: the cabin buried in the forest, bitter cold turning to snow, a lone elk moving through the darkness.

The tension in this sinister emotional tale is almost unbearable, as the daughter stalks her prey: spying on her mother’s movements, visiting the father’s grave, hiding behind dustbins, plotting access to the flat. I felt completely involved in this terrifying drama and wolfed down every page. 

By Vigdis Hjorth, Charlotte Barslund (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'To mother is to murder, or close enough', thinks Johanna, as she looks at the spelling of the two words in Norwegian. She's recently widowed and back in Oslo after a long absence as she prepares for a retrospective of her art. The subject of her work is motherhood and some of her more controversial paintings have brought about a dramatic rift between parent and child. This new proximity, after decades of acrimonious absence, set both women on edge, and before too long Johanna finds her mother stalking her thoughts, and Johanna starts stalking her mother's house.


Book cover of The Moose Paradox

Charles Lambert Author Of The Bone Flower

From Charles' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Storyteller Perpetual foreigner Bon viveur Urbanite Dreamcatcher

Charles' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Charles Lambert Why did Charles love this book?

Antti Tuomainen is a total original, a combination of Scandi noir and almost slapstick comedy, a genius of incongruity rendered, somehow, credible and even inevitable by the sheer skill of the author.

The Moose Paradox is the book that, in a difficult year, made me laugh loudest and jump highest from my seat and convinced me that anything at all can be overcome with courage, humor, and a substantial dose of luck.

It’s filled with wit, subtle and otherwise, unforeseen and yet entirely believable twists and, well, just ‘wow’ moments (I say this as a reader and as a – somewhat envious - fellow writer). It’s also, in its idiosyncratic way, rather sexy.

By Antti Tuomainen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Insurance mathematician Henri has his life under control, when a man from the past appears and a shady trio take over the adventure park's equipment supply company ... Things are messier than ever in the absurdly funny, heart-stoppingly tense second instalment in Antti Tuomainen's bestselling series...

'In these uncertain times, what better hero than an actuary?' Chris Brookmyre

'One of those rare writers who manages to deftly balance intrigue, noir and a deliciously ironic sense of humour ... a delight' Vaseem Khan

'What a book! Antti has managed to put the fun into funerals and take it out of fun…


Book cover of Stockholm Delete

Cecilia Ekbäck Author Of The Historians: A Thrilling Novel of Conspiracy and Intrigue During World War II

From my list on Nordic noir from a Nordic noir fan.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Cecilia's book list on Nordic noir from a Nordic noir fan

Cecilia Ekbäck Why did Cecilia love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of I Remember You: A Ghost Story

Marcel Krueger Author Of Iceland: A Literary Guide for Travellers

From my list on Iceland to read in winter.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Marcel's book list on Iceland to read in winter

Marcel Krueger Why did Marcel love this book?

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. 

By Yrsa Sigurdardóttir,

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…


Book cover of Sidetracked

Stephen B. King Author Of Forever Night

From my list on catching a serial killer and how they became monsters.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Stephen's book list on catching a serial killer and how they became monsters

Stephen B. King Why did Stephen love this book?

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.

By Henning Mankell, Steven T. Murray (translator),

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'…