There's a chill in the air. Yes, I know it's practically spring (and some of us are enjoying 80-degree weather), but a cold wind is ushering in a fabulous new trend for mysteries. It's Nordic Noir, featuring twisty tales and freezing landscapes. Long nights and little sun seem to produce taciturn detectives and deeply disturbed villains. Here are three of my favorite dark tales.
The Keeper of Lost Causes
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
His name may not be familiar to those of us in countries other than his native Denmark, but Adler-Olsen is one of his country's top crime writers. This first installment in the Department Q series shows us why.
Carl Mørck was also at the top of his game, until a shootout with a criminal left him with a wound, and a serious case of survivor's guilt. He's shocked when he is promoted as soon as he returns to his detective post, until he finds out he's in charge of a cold-case department with few prospects for success. Saddled with an assistant he doesn't understand, in a steamy basement office with leftover goods, Mørck is prepared to sleep his way through the job. That is, until a missing person's case grabs his attention.
This engrossing mystery is as dark as any in Nordic Noir, but with a gentle sense of humor that lightens the mood, and puts you firmly behind Department Q and its lost causes. The next book from Adler-Olsen (The Absent One) will appear in August, just in time to cool us down. (Penguin Group - 2011)
Blowing in from the island of Iceland is a cold tale of suicide. Or is it murder? Inspector Erlunder has a feeling that all is not as it seems, even though the coroner has deemed the death a clear suicide.
A loner by nature, Erlunder follows his hunch, quietly probing the idea that the victim did not hang herself and was helped to her death. But who did the deed? Was it the grieving husband who seems to have something to hide? Or perhaps it was one of the many psychics that the poor woman visited after her own mother's death.
At the same time, Erlunder is visited by the father of a long-ago missing person. The same intuition leads him to re-examine the details of that case, determined to find resolution in both mysteries.
This is the sixth book in what is known as the Reykjavik Thriller series, but the first I've read. After finding myself pulled into the spell of Indridason's writing, I'll be searching out the previous five. (Picador - 2011)
I first discovered Jo Nesbø with The Devil's Star and I've been hooked ever since. His taut writing and fast-paced storylines are reminiscent of Stieg Larsson, but better.
Don't get me wrong, I love Larsson's trilogy, but I do think it could have used a little editing to quicken the pace and clear out a few "dead" spots (pardon the pun). Unfortunately, at 528 pages, the only thing about this book that gave me pause, other than the unexpected turns, was the fact that it would have been much better if it had a been a bit shorter. See tomorrow's post on editing.
Meanwhile, back to The Leopard, which is still an amazing return to detective Harry Hole's strange world. As defective as the criminals he hunts, Hole has descended into his addictions and is hiding in Hong Kong. He refuses to return home, until he's enticed there by the idea that another serial killer is on the loose. Two women have died, but there is nothing at all to link them except very strange stab wounds in their mouths. Hole travels back to Norway and then to the Congo in his quest to track an elusive animal.
Nesbø is a thrilling writer who never fails to surprise – I have to say that the murder weapon in this case completely freaked me out. If you've never read his books, see my review here of The Snowman. (Knopf Doubleday - 2011)
And now for a personal note - happy birthday to my daughter, Aana! I can't wait to see how the story of your life unfolds.