In The Writer's World

A June 16 New York Times  article tackled the Stieg Larsson phenomenon as well as the more pressing matter: how are we mystery readers to survive now that Larsson is gone?

Easy. For the seeker, there exists an entire collection of Swedish noir novelists waiting to be read.

To me, the most obvious is Henning Mankell, author of the famed Kurt Wallander series. Mankell had sold millions of books before any of us had even heard of him. He jumped on my radar screen last summer when the first “Wallander” mysteries were aired on PBS. Since then I have read them all. While some translations are better than others, the books overall deal with complicated human relations, knotty (and often gruesome) crimes, and surprising insights into modern Swedish culture.

I also happen to love Wallander the character. Definitely the anti-hero. Sometimes even his daughter can’t stand him. And Mankell is a skilled novelist, whether writing about Wallander and his investigations, or on any number of other topics.  Italian Shoes is an excellent example.

A recent discovery, through a friend, is Swedish mystery writer Hakan Nesser. Like many crime fiction heroes, Nesser’s Inspector Van Veeteren, is a character in his own right. And while all the locations in the Van Veeteren series are fictional, one can assume that the setting is Sweden. Nesser’s mysteries have won numerous awards and are nearly as popular in Europe as Mankell’s.

(I did object to Nesser’s handling of the ending in The Return. As an author, I think he copped out.  However, I am continuing with the series. You’ll have to judge for yourselves.)

The late Per Wahloo and his co-author and partner Maj Sjowall created the Martin Beck series, also set in Sweden. By the time of his death in 1975, Wahloo and Sjowall had completed 10 Beck novels. Their fourth and most famous, The Laughing Policeman, was made into a movie starring Walter Matthau.

Meanwhile, a relative unknown in this country, Camilla Lackberg, was picked up by Pegasus Books for a hefty advance.  A former economist, Lackberg has enjoyed great popularity in the Scandinavian countries. Her first novel, The Ice Princess, was recently released in the U.S.

Happy mystery reading, everyone!

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