Thousands of copies of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series have been sold around the world, introducing international readers to the genre of Nordic crime fiction. He was the recipient of the Glass Key Award, given annually to the best crime novel written by a Nordic author, for two of his Millennium novels (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest). And David Lagercrantz, author of the Millennium series, has written two more novels based on the adventures of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.
For those who enjoy Larsson’s series, there are many more books in the same genre out there for you to read. Its authors are well-known for their ability to brilliantly pair bleak landscapes with chilling crimes in Nordic noir. So, if you’re looking for a good read, try one of the books on this list.
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
Kurt Wallander, a midlife detective who has become a canonical figure in Scandinavian crime fiction, was made famous by winning the first Glass Key. It has been done twice in Sweden, with Kenneth Branagh portraying Wallander in the BBC’s eponymous series.) Faceless Killers takes place in a remote farmhouse, where a savage attack on an elderly couple leaves the wife with only the word “foreign” before she succumbs to her injuries. Persistently, Wallander probes the country’s complicated mix of racism and anti-immigration sentiments. Wallander, despite his flaws, is an instantly engrossing character and anchors one of Scandinavia’s most acclaimed noir series.
The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
Take a look at the wildly popular Jo Nesb series before Michael Fassbender plays Harry Hole in an October release film adaptation. In his seventh novel, The Snowman, Ib Nesb introduces his alcoholic, insubordinate, and brilliant detective. It’s an excellent introduction to the author’s bizarre criminal underworld. After the first snowfall of the year, the victims of this serial killer—first—go Norway’s missing, only to be replaced by a snowman. Unlike a typical procedural, The Snowman is more of a psychological thriller, with the detective racing to find a solution to the case before the next victim dies.
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow is more like an international thriller than a hardboiled mystery because of its complex narrative based on Denmark and Greenland’s cultural history. An unconventional protagonist, Greenlandic Inuit mother and Danish father Smilla Jaspersen, is the driving force behind this 1993 Glass Key Award-winning novel. While she’s always been known as the “loner,” Smilla, who is 37 years old, is pushed over the edge by the tragic death of her neighbor’s young son. When it comes to solving the mystery of the boy’s death, Smilla’s innate understanding of ice and snow holds the key.
The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg
Upon her return to her hometown of Fjällbacka, she finds the body of a childhood friend frozen in the bathtub. Falck has doubts about the alleged suicide. Hedström has his own suspicions, and amidst a blossoming romance, he and the victim’s daughter go on a search for the truth. With each step Falck and Hedström take toward finding the answer, the idyllic past they thought they knew turns out to be anything but idyllic. Swedish author Lars Läckberg has a keen eye for how people’s personal relationships—both familial and romantic–influence their actions. The suspenseful plot is handled deftly by Läckberg.
White Heat by M.J. McGrath
McGrath’s use of the frozen tundra as both a living character and a convenient desolate setting for a tourist’s death fits in well with the Nordic crime-writing vibe. A half-Inuit, half-white hunter and guide known as Edie Kiglatuk is the star of the show. The Inuit elders (who already view Kiglatuk with suspicion) prefer to classify the crime as an accident, while Kiglatuk is determined to get to the bottom of it. As a resourceful and in tune with the land investigator, Kiglatuk is a delight to watch.
The Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstøl
The first book in this Norwegian author’s Minnesota Trilogy focuses on the culture of Nordic immigrants and their descendants in the United States. Lance Hansen, a Forest Service officer, serves on Lake Superior’s north shore, a remote and wild area familiar to immigrants from colder climates. Hansen comes across the body of a young Norwegian tourist next to another covered in blood, which leads him to investigate further. A century earlier, a man from the Ojibwe tribe was found murdered at the same location. In the opening scene of a story about cultures at odds, “home” takes on a more nuanced meaning.
A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Department Q is headed by Copenhagen Detective Carl Mrck, who investigates cold case files of unsolved crimes. Glass Key Award-winning third entry, Mrck begins with a 13-year-old message written in blood found in a bottle, not a discarded manila file folder. Detective Curmudgeon is known for his dry wit when it comes to investigating the darkest of crimes, but it becomes clear that this killer is still on the loose. A Conspiracy of Faith is Adler-best Olsen’s work to date, with a compelling, clever, and rough-hewn protagonist propelling it to the top of the series.
The Dying Detective by Leif G.W. Persson
Retired Swedish National Criminal Police chief Lars Martin Johansson is haunted by one final case. Nevertheless, the investigator who was praised for his ability to “see around corners” has suffered a stroke and must now start his work from a hospital bed. A teen girl was raped and murdered 25 years ago, and the case is still unsolved because the statute of limitations has expired. Retired police officer Johansson (who was awarded the 2011 Glass Key Award) is depicted in the novel (part procedural and part character study) as an idealist who is just as committed to finding the killer in retirement as in the field.
The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
Swedish authors Sjöwall and Wahlöö, pioneers of Nordic noir, wrote ten novels featuring Stockholm detective Martin Beck between 1965 and 1975. The Laughing Policeman, the fourth book in the series, won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in the United States in 1971. As many as eight people were killed on a rainy November night, while most of the city’s police force was engaged in a Vietnam War protest. As Beck investigates the gruesome crime, he finds the body of a previous victim, which allows him to connect the dots between the two cases. Sjöwall and Wahlöö write with a compelling style that keeps the pages turning more than half a century after they were first published.
The Unlucky Lottery by Håkan Nesser
Nesser, a three-time winner of the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award and a Glass Key winner, is one of the few authors who writes books set entirely in a fictional world. Maardam, a small city in northern Europe, has elements of Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany, but it’s impossible to place it precisely. While working for Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, Maardam is shocked to learn that an elderly man who had just won a small lottery prize was murdered. It’s a difficult case to solve when the victim’s friend and a neighbor go missing, but there is a lot more going on beneath the surface.