If you’ve ever picked up a Nordic Noir novel, you’ll know that these crime books often center around some variation of a burdened cop with a troubled past, investigating a dark crime. Don't get me wrong: I absolutely love this formula for a crime novel (it's actually my personal favorite crime subgenre), and there is truly so much variety within these more traditional Nordic Noir reads.
But I also love finding non-traditional examples of Scandinavian crime that showcase the incredibly wide-ranging talent of Nordic authors! Today I’m sharing a reading list of 3 non-traditional Nordic crime stories: recommendations that are more lyrical and less violent than your standard Nordic Noir fare, but just as chilling and engrossing as their police procedural counterparts.
Non-Traditional Nordic Noir
1. THE BIRD TRIBUNAL by Agnes Ravatn
This short little book packs an emotional punch. It’s as emotive and lyrical as it is chilling and spine-tingling: a haunting story of two strangers whose lives - and secrets - converge in an isolated fjord. THE BIRD TRIBUNAL follows a woman who escapes her past by going to work as a caretaker for a home located on a remote fjord. Her personal baggage and the odd temperament of the home’s owner combine to create a taut, hair-raising story of infatuation and suspicion. This book is almost better defined as domestic suspense than Nordic Noir; granted, its Norwegian setting is essential to the story, but it focuses more on the development of its characters than any crime-solving. I read this book many months ago, and have continued to think about it. If you’re looking for a truly unusual domestic thriller with a brooding atmosphere, I highly recommend THE BIRD TRIBUNAL.
2. BLOOD ON SNOW by Jo Nesbo
No one does Nordic Noir better than Nesbo, and his standalone novel BLOOD ON SNOW proves that he can do non-traditional noir just as well as traditional. BLOOD ON SNOW is an emotional, surprisingly tender story about Olav, a “fixer” for one of Oslo’s most notorious crime bosses. Oslo’s capacity for murder is only matched by his capacity for love, and his tragic story had me in tears. This book does have moments of violence in it, but most of all, it’s a story that gives emotional depth and sensitivity to the kind of gritty, dark characters that Nesbo writes so well. BLOOD ON SNOW showcases a whole new side to Nesbo’s talent. (Of note: there is also a companion novel to BLOOD ON SNOW called MIDNIGHT SUN.)
3. SNOWBLIND by Ragnar Jonasson
Orenda Books/Minotaur Books
Ragnar Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series perfectly blends Nordic Noir with all the best of golden age mystery. The first novel in his series, SNOWBLIND, sets a “locked room mystery” worthy of Agatha Christie against the backdrop of an isolated Icelandic town. When a blizzard blocks off the only road connecting Siglufjordur to the rest of Iceland, new-to-town Ari Thor feels the claustrophobia descending upon him. To make matters worse, a murder is committed during the storm, and suddenly everyone in town is a suspect—and no one has anywhere to run. Saying a crime novel is worthy of Agatha Christie’s legacy is high praise, but Jonasson’s books have earned it. SNOWBLIND will be an instant-favorite for readers looking to immerse themselves in a timeless mystery set against an atmospheric backdrop.
Are you more of a traditional police procedural reader, or do you look for non-traditional crime novels? I'd love to hear your thoughts!