Norwegians have a special word for these special days between Christmas and New Year. Romjul. If you are lucky, you can spend nearly a week with your family or friends, or on your own if that’s what you want, resting and relaxing, reading books, watching films, eating delicious leftover food. Or you can be active: walks, visits to museums and galleries. Or you can go skiing if you are in the right place at the right time and the snow, oh, the snow is just perfect! The idea of romjul is to be lazy, to recharge, to enjoy slow pace of short days. Hence in the spirit of languid romjul, I would like to suggest some novels which were not published recently but are definitely worth revisiting. I have already done the ‘hard’ work; read and reviewed them for Crime Review. These crime fiction books have certain themes in common. Winter months and winter weather, cold and snow. Dark nights. Scandinavian locations. Chilling, unsettling and unforgettable stories. Memorable characters and interesting plots.
Here they are, ten choices from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden:
Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Defenceless, tr David Hackston. A young Pakistani Christian, who fled to Finland to escape persecution, is denied asylum and gets caught in drugs and gangs warfare. An old man in pyjamas is found dead in the road. Detective Anna Fekete investigates whether there could be a connection between the two.
Kristina Ohlsson’s The Chosen, tr Marlaine Delargy. Stockholm. The terrifying Paper Boy arrives at night, carefully chooses his victims, mostly children, and disappears. Later the mutilated bodies are found with paper bags on their heads. Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht have to stop him from claiming more lives.
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s Why Did You Lie?, tr Victoria Cribb. Four people are stranded in a small lighthouse on a rock surrounded by raging sea. An ordinary couple return from home-swap in America to find their guests apparently missing. A journalist on the track of an old case hangs himself in his own garage. Someone is determined to punish them.
Antti Tuomainen’s The Mine, tr David Hackston. Investigative reporter Janne Vuori travels to the north of Finland to uncover the truth about an industrial corruption threatening lives and environment in the area by a nickel mine.
Håkan Nesser’s The Darkest Day, tr Sarah Death. The Hermansson family are gathering to celebrate father Karl-Erik and eldest daughter Ebba’s joint landmark birthdays. But underneath the smiles, tensions are running high. Before the festivities are over two members of the family are missing. Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti must find out what has happened.
Kjell Ola Dahl’s The Ice Swimmer, tr Don Bartlett. When a man’s body is discovered in the freeing waters of Oslo harbour, city detectives Gunnarstanda and Stigersand face a very complicated case, leading them into the murky world of political secrets.
Eddie Thomas Petersen’s After the Death of Ellen Keldberg, tr Tony Bainton. The artist Ellen Keldberg has been found frozen on a street bench in Skagen. Soon two visitors arrive in town: her nephew Mikkel who has to organise a funeral, and Anne Sofie, a young reckless photographer obsessed with death. As their paths cross a history of old and new secrets come to the surface.
Arne Dahl’s Hunted, tr Neil Smith. Private investigators Sam Berger and Molly Bloom are on the run from the authorities, burned from previous investigation, and hiding in the depths of snowy north Sweden. But soon they are asked to follow up on the letter from a distressed and seemingly paranoid woman who knows secret details of a murder case from long ago.
Katja Ivar’s Deep As Death February 1953, Helsinki. Detective Hella Mauzer, fired from the police and trying to survive as a private investigator, searches for a serial killer who might have been responsible for several deaths, including those of local prostitutes.
Anne Holt’s A Grave for Two, tr Anne Bruce. High-flying lawyer Selma Falck has lost everything because of her former client Jan Morell, and her own recklessness. Now Morell wants her to clear the name of his daughter Hege, an elite cross-country skier accused of doping. Selma has no choice but to search for the truth.
Enjoy whatever you do. Reading, writing, resting.