A Reading List for fans of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO didn’t just introduce Nordic Noir to the U.S.—it blew the crime fiction scene in America wide open, making way for a swarm of talented Scandinavian crime writers to claim their space on U.S. readers’ bookshelves. Today I’ll be breaking down the key elements that make THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO so darn addictive, and recommending a next read for you based on which element of TGWTDT you loved most.
Element 1: The Girl Herself—Lisbeth Salander
Let’s face it: Lisbeth Salander is one of the greatest crime fiction protagonists readers have been introduced to in recent memory. She’s fiercely independent, driven, resilient, highly skilled, flawed… Not to mention, her story sparked a wave of crime titles featuring "girl" in the title. While no one can truly top the original girl, a fresh voice out of Norway might have crafted her successor.
If you love Lisbeth Salander, read I’M TRAVELING ALONE by Samuel Bjørk
Bjørk’s English debut features a strong-yet-flawed female lead: Mia Kruger. Mia is a troubled former police officer who has quit the police force and moved to an isolated island. Burdened by the ghosts of her past, Mia is on the edge of suicide—until a former coworker persuades her to come back to the police force as part of a newly-established homicide unit. Mia becomes essential to the pursuit of a ruthless serial killer targeting young children - a disturbing series of crimes that might be connected to members of the police force. I was completely drawn into this story for its intricacy of plot, strong character development, and impeccable plotting. (Not to mention its breathlessly suspenseful ending!) Samuel Bjork’s U.S. debut is not one to miss. Read my full review here & Amazon link here.
Element 2: An Epic Plot
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and its successors are nothing if not epic. This trilogy moves in every direction imaginable, from corruption to family secrets, from murder to lust. It crosses borders and spans generations. The epic sweep of its plot makes the Millennium trilogy an utter thrill ride—you become fully immersed in a vivid world full of twists and turns.
If you love an epic plot, read THE CROW GIRL by Erik Axl Sund
There are about a million angles that I could take when recommending THE CROW GIRL. It’s no secret that I consider this book a masterpiece. Its astute social commentary, psychological insights, and powerful redemption story all combine to make this a truly brilliant read. But what I believe will make THE CROW GIRL appeal to mass audiences is this: it is a seriously epic, action-packed story, with a plot that looks as deeply into the minds of its characters as it does into the history of Europe. Readers begin this massive tome with a traditional police procedural structure: a female detective is tasked with the case of a young boy whose body was found brutally abused and mummified at a Swedish subway stop. The story quickly develops from police procedural into a twisted web of corruption, emotional and physical abuse, and totally unforeseeable reveals. 750 pages of the worst of humanity fly by, marking Erik Axl Sund’s domination of the current crime fiction scene. If you loved the epic scope of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, you will be blown away by THE CROW GIRL. Read my full review here, and read about my lunch with Erik Axl Sund here. Amazon link here.
Element 3: Hard-Boiled & Gritty Investigation
There’s something to be said for a book that dives headfirst into an investigation, sparing no detail and daring the reader to uncover its secrets before its protagonist does. Mikael Blomkvist’s story is one such case. I was swept up in Mikael’s investigative work, and completely addicted to the gritty edge that Larsson injects throughout this process.
If you love gritty investigative work, read Jo Nesbø’s THE SNOWMAN
To my mind, Jo Nesbø truly is the king of Scandinavian crime fiction. His Harry Hole series is a gritty, addictive nosedive into the underbelly of Oslo, Norway. Following troubled policeman Harry Hole, readers explore the darkness of humanity—examining both Harry’s own demons, and the demons of the men and women perpetrating crimes throughout his city. This series is Nordic Noir at its best, and it will forever be my favorite. Nesbø’s books are gritty, raw, and detail-driven, showcasing the qualities that make Scandinavian crime fiction the ultimate genre for hard-boiled police procedurals. In THE SNOWMAN, which is actually book 7 in the series, readers find Harry facing his toughest – and most sinister – case yet: it’s winter, and a killer is methodically picking off residents of Oslo and its suburbs, leaving behind a chilling warning—a snowman. This snowman appears in front yards of homes, heralding the coming of a violent crime. With an explosive climax and suspense to spare, this is Nesbø at his best. Amazon link here.
Element 4: Characters You Fall For
There’s just something so endearing about Lisbeth and Mikael. Their unlikely comradery adds an element of warmth and humanity to a story that is otherwise so dark and brutal. I simply love their deep connection, and came to feel that I knew them personally. I rooted for them, grieved with them, and enjoyed every moment spent in their company.
If you love characters you can fall for, read Camilla Läckberg’s THE ICE PRINCESS
Camilla Läckberg is the queen of writing Scandinavian crime fiction with a human side. Her Detective Hedström series is the ultimate read if you’re looking for Nordic Noir infused with endearing characters and emotional attachment. THE ICE PRINCESS introduces readers to Erica Falck, a Swedish journalist living in a seaside village. When Erica’s childhood best friend is found dead in her bathtub of presumed suicide, Erica immediately questions this conclusion, and launches her own investigation into her friend’s fate. Her path soon crosses with local detective Patrik Hedström, launching a partnership that will delight readers. Don’t be mistaken—these books still contain plenty of the trademark police work and darkness that define Nordic Noir, but with a wonderfully human element that always keeps me coming back for more. Amazon link here.
There's nothing quite like finding a book you become seriously obsessed with. Reading THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO opened my eyes to a whole new world within the crime fiction genre, and sparked my continuing investigation into Nordic Noir. I hope that using this list, you'll be able to find your next crime fiction obsession!