New Readers: Start Here
Dear new Nordic Noir reader, welcome! Here is your reading list to begin your journey into Nordic Noir.
As with any genre, there are a few key authors whose works define it, and will give you a sense of whether or not this genre is for you. The best books to begin with are:
- Jo Nesbø, THE BAT
- The first in Nesbø's definitive Harry Hole series. The series undeniably improves as it progresses - Books 1 and 2 (THE BAT and COCKROACHES) are my least favorites in the series - but if you're willing to be patient, it's always preferable to read the series in order. If you prefer to skip ahead, start with Book 3, THE REDBREAST. My personal favorite in the series is THE SNOWMAN (Book 7). Retail info here.
- Henning Mankell, FACELESS KILLERS
- Meet Inspector Kurt Wallander, Mankell's iconic character who has inspired numerous TV series. Retail info here.
- Stieg Larsson, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
- The book that brought Nordic Noir to the forefront in America - this one needs no introduction. You just can't beat Lisbeth Salander. Retail info here.
- Camilla Läckberg, THE ICE PRINCESS
- Some might argue with Lackberg's role as a genre-defining author, because her work is distinctly lighter in tone than many of her peers. However, these books are an excellent choice if you're looking for something to ease your way into Nordic Noir. THE ICE PRINCESS is the first in a fantastic series with a heart-warming humanity at its core. Retail info here.
- Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, ROSEANNA
- The godparents of Nordic Noir. The duo's ROSEANNA is a definitive police procedural which has inspired countless Scandinavian crime writers. Retail info here.
Seasoned Readers: Start Here
Fans of Nordic Noir - I'm thrilled to meet you! This subgenre is so exciting because it's always evolving, with new talent cropping up every day. You already know you love this genre, so you're ready to continue exploring Scandinavia's rising stars and authors to watch. Your reading list here:
- Erik Axl Sund, THE CROW GIRL | Read CBTB's Review
- Tied for my favorite book of all time (with Nesbø's THE SNOWMAN). Originally a Swedish trilogy, now releasing June 2016 as a single book. An epic story of violence, abuse, mental illness, and redemption. It clocks in at over 700 pages long, but it's worth every page! Retail info here.
- Vidar Sundstøl, THE DEVIL'S WEDDING RING | Read CBTB's Review
- Ancient Norwegian folklore meets modern investigation in this brilliant and compelling blend of past and present. A private detective returns home to the Telemark region of Norway for a dear friend's funeral - and soon finds himself embroiled in a strange and sinister mystery. Sundstøl's standalone is an absolute must-read for fans of the genre - a massively underrated talent. Retail info here.
- Sara Blaedel, THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS
- Denmark's Queen of Crime Fiction is growing in popularity in the US. Though not the first in her series, THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS is a gripping introduction to Blaedel's detail-oriented, police investigation-heavy style of crime writing. Retail info here.
- Samuel Bjørk, I'M TRAVELING ALONE | Read CBTB's Review
- A young girl's body is found hanging from a tree in the countryside, a sign around her neck reading "I'm Traveling Alone." This chilling crime launches a superb crime novel. Unfortunately, the sequel (THE OWL ALWAYS HUNTS AT NIGHT) didn't deliver the same quality of read for me - but this book is brilliant. Retail info here.
- Agnes Ravatn, THE BIRD TRIBUNAL
- A lyrical, haunting Nordic twist on a domestic suspense novel. A woman seeking to escape a career scandal in the big city takes a job as caretaker for an eccentric man living on a remote fjord. The meat of this story comes from the interplay of the two protagonists - not a lot "happens," but the story hums with emotional and psychological tension. You won't read another piece of Scandinavian crime like this one. Retail info here.
- Ragnar Jonasson, SNOWBLIND | View a Photo Tour of Siglufjordur
- Ragnar's Dark Iceland series is taking the world by storm. Optioned for a TV show, this series is deeply influenced by classic mystery writing, and introduces readers to Icelandic crime fiction with a flavor all its own. A blizzard cuts off the only road leading into - and out of - a remote town in northern Iceland - claustrophobia and intrigue ensues. Retail info here.
- Leif GW Persson, THE DYING DETECTIVE | Read CBTB's Review
- A retired detective, hospitalized after suffering a stroke, takes up a cold case from his hospital bed. As he delves into the dark and disturbing unsolved crime, he must also grapple with his own mortality. Measured, intricate plotting makes for a superb procedural. Retail info here.
- Yrsa Sigurdardottir, THE LEGACY | Read CBTB's Review
- Iceland's Queen of Crime is back with a brutal and shocking police procedural - as only Yrsa can do! A detective and a child psychiatrist must work together to tease out what really happened when a young girl is found in the same room as the brutalized body of her mother. This is a great crossover between more traditional police procedural writing and Yrsa's dark imagination. Retail info here.