This was a stellar year for Scandinavian crime. Between brand-new debuts, installments in existing series, and personal discoveries of older books, my TBR has consistently been full of outstanding Nordic Noir reads. To celebrate the talented authors whose books I've had the privilege of reading this year, I'm sharing a comprehensive list of all the Scandinavian crime titles I read in 2016, plus my star rating and a brief summary of my thoughts on the book!
Note: I'll be listing these books roughly in the order I read them, not by star ranking.
CBTB's 2016 Scandinavian Crime Reads
1. MIDNIGHT SUN by Jo Nesbo
5/5 stars: this story is Nesbo at his best, telling a story of crime and revenge with a deeply human twist—a deeply redemptive and emotional novel about a hitman with a heart, running from a vicious crime boss.
2. THE KILLING FOREST by Sara Blaedel
4.5/5 stars: a fast-paced police procedural guaranteed to inspire emotional investment; Sara writes some of my favorite crime novels, and this is one of her best. This book finds series protagonist Louise Rick investigating the disappearance of a young boy; the ending to this story left me in tears.
3. I'M TRAVELING ALONE by Samuel Bjork
5/5 stars: a brilliant entry into Bjork's series, featuring one of my favorite female leads—Mia Kruger, a troubled female detective worthy of Lisbeth Salander's legacy. When the body of a young girl is found hanging from a tree, bearing a sign reading "I'm Traveling Alone," the police call upon Mia Kruger to solve the case.
4. THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT by Jakob Melander
4/5 stars: I felt instantly at home with Melander's writing; this is an entertaining and fast-moving story with a big heart. Introduces readers to Lars Winkler, a Danish detective and former drug addict. A young prostitute is found murdered, her eyes removed and her body preserved, and Winkler finds himself tracking a serial killer.
5. THE CROW GIRL by Erik Axl Sund
5+++/5 stars: arguably my all-time favorite book, this massive tome was originally published in Sweden as a trilogy; deeply insightful, brutally violent—a relentlessly dark exploration of the effects of trauma on the human psyche. Follows three women as they navigate the fallout of emotional and physical abuse.
6. SNOWBLIND by Ragnar Jonasson
4.5/5 stars: a brilliant introduction to Jonasson's Dark Iceland series—slow-burning, atmospheric, with strong influences of Agatha Christie. Introduces readers to Ari Thor, a police officer in a small Icelandic town. Rather than a "locked room mystery," Jonasson sets up a murder mystery in a town completely cut off from the rest of the country by a snowstorm.
7. NIGHTBLIND by Ragnar Jonasson
4/5 stars: another fantastic installation in the Dark Iceland series; I preferred SNOWBLIND, but NIGHTBLIND is excellent as well. This installment in the series finds Ari Thor dealing with the fallout from the murder of a local policeman; Ari Thor must navigate local politics in an investigation that touches on individuals throughout the town.
8. KILLER DEAL by Sofie Sarenbrant
3.5/5 stars: lighter crime fiction fare—a fast-paced story with a killer cliffhanger ending, a great choice for an airplane or vacation read. A couple visiting an open house receives a nasty surprise when they find a dead body inside.
9. MARKED FOR LIFE by Emelie Schepp
4.5/5 stars: Schepp's US debut fully exceeded my expectations—bone chilling, gripping, and totally entertaining. Follows a tough-as-nails prosecutor (Jana) whose latest case for work collides with secrets from her past.
10. HELL FIRE by Karin Fossum
4/5 stars: a police procedural/family drama hybrid—this is an excellent choice if you love slow-burning crime novels that delve into family secrets. A mother and son are found murdered; in a parallel storyline, another mother and son pair harbor dark secrets. Masterful plotting and vivid characterization.
11. THE VANISHED by Lotte & Soren Hammer
2.5/5 stars: this was the only Scandinavian crime novel I read in 2016 that didn't really click for me. It's a drier style of writing than I prefer, with time hops that didn't make a lot of sense to me. A local postman is found dead in his home, and what begins as a routine investigation takes a dark turn when life-size images of a missing girl are found plastered on the walls of his attic.
12. THE ICE CHILD by Camilla Lackberg
5/5 stars: the newest installment in Lackberg's Fjallbacka series; as always, it's a totally gripping story with completely endearing characters. Pick this one up if you're caught up on the series! (Book 1 in the series is THE ICE PRINCESS, if you're new to her work!)
13. MIDWINTER BLOOD by Mons Kallentoft
4/5 stars: this book saved me from a reading slump; it starts out slow, but rewards the patient reader in a big way with its unique language and twisty case of family secrets and murder. Introduces readers to Malin Fors, a single mother and police superintendent. When the body of a man is found brutally murdered and hanging in a tree, Malin is on the case.
14. THE LOST WOMAN by Sara Blaedel (releases in 2017!)
4.5/5 stars: a change of pace from Sara's previous books, but I loved it—a story that blends police procedural with a deeply emotional storyline. Delves deeper into the personal life of Eik, the boyfriend of Louise Rick, Sara's series protagonist. This book will release in February 2017!
15. THE ICE BENEATH HER by Camilla Grebe
5/5 stars: a completely brilliant blend of the best of Nordic Noir and psychological thriller themes; utilizes unreliable characters, alternate narrators, and plenty of plot twists to create a totally gripping read. When a beheaded body is found in the home of a famous CEO, an investigation begins into the deceased—and also into the life of the mysterious CEO. Grebe has written a series with her sister; this is her first solo book in the US.
16. I REMEMBER YOU by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
4/5 stars: a chilling ghost story-meets-crime novel from Iceland's Queen of Crime. A group of friends sets out to renovate a house in a remote town, but they soon realize they're not as alone as they thought. Meanwhile, in an alternate storyline, a young doctor investigates the suicide of an elderly woman - only to discover that she was obsessed with the disappearance of his son. Atmospheric and chilling.
17. THE BIRD TRIBUNAL by Agnes Ravatn
4.5/5 stars: hypnotic, trance-like suspense; this is nothing like any other crime novel I've ever read. This isn't a "whodunnit" or even a "why-have-they-done-it"—it's a taught, hypnotic story of two strangers living in solitude, with only their secrets for company. Set against the backdrop of a Norwegian fjord, this story is permeated by a sense of foreboding. I read it in one sitting.
18. THE MINE by Antti Tuomainen
4/5 stars: a character study set against the backdrop of an environmental crisis in Finland; sophisticated and immersive crime fiction. Follows a journalist investigating illegal mining practices; his investigation begins with a series of murders, and brings him closer to truths about his own family
19. BURNED by Thomas Enger
4.5/5 stars: a novel I felt instantly at home with; a fast-paced and endearing piece of Nordic Noir that introduces readers to Henning Juul, a journalist reeling from a personal tragedy. When a body is found half-buried and brutalized in an Oslo city park, Henning is on the case, and his investigation soon leads him deep into the underbelly of his city. Henning is a burdened main character I instantly loved.
20. BLACKOUT by Ragnar Jonasson
5/5 stars: by far my favorite in Jonasson's Dark Iceland series. Gripping, atmospheric, moody, and impeccably plotted. Follows Ari Thor and his colleagues as they investigate a death in a nearby town with ties to their own town. Involves a vivid cast of characters and a mystery from the past.
21. CLOSED FOR WINTER by Jorn Lier Horst
4/5 stars: a wholly entertaining police procedural. Author Horst worked in the police in Norway before turning to crime writing, making his book one of the most methodical and detail-oriented procedurals I've ever read. A body is found in the summer cottage of a local TV celebrity, and William Wisting is on the case—a case that has ties to organized crime both within Norway and across Europe.
Plus: I'm currently reading MARKED FOR REVENGE by Emelie Schepp, book 2 in Schepp's Jana Berzelius series. I'll have it done before the end of 2016, so I wanted to be sure to mention it here! MARKED FOR REVENGE releases in February 2017.
What Scandinavian crime books did you read this year? How did you like the titles you read? I'd love to hear your thoughts!