Archive for the ‘Scandinavian’ Category

This debut mystery by Danish authors Kaaberbol and Friis is an absorbing read. Not only is it a mystery but it delves into the personalities of the characters. The only confusion is what country/countries the action takes place in.


In brief, Sigita’s son Mikas is kidnapped by a woman who has previously offered him chocolate in the schoolyard and playground. Karin, at the behest of her boss Jan, retrieves an extremely heavy suitcase from a baggage check in the local train station. Curious, she opens it to find a young child, unconscious but alive, curled up in the suitcase. What nefarious activities was the boy headed for? Unsure what to do, she calls her long lost friend, Nina Borg, tells her about the suitcase, but not its contents. A long time ‘savior of the world’, she knows Nina will know what to do. The end result (not a spoiler), her boss doesn’t have what he wants and the abductor doesn’t have what he wants leading to two days of tension, terror  and murder.

Recommended by a bookseller from Soho Press at the Brooklyn Book Festival, The Boy in the Suitcase, the initial book in the Nina Borg series, was well worth the read. Towards the end, I was constantly reading because I wanted to know how it ended. The authors did leave some characters unsettled, I guess is the word I would use. I would have liked to find out what happened to some of them…the ones you get attached to.

The Boy in the Suitcase is a welcome addition to the Scandinavian mystery scene.  It has action, tension, mystery. It h as a plausible plot, a few surprises and a surprise ending…or more to the point, it has an end you don’t see coming until…presto, at one point you do see coming. If you’re a Nordic mystery fan, go for it.

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When Chief Public Prosecutor Sigurd Halvorsrud’s wife, Doris Flo, is found decapitated in the Halvorsrud living room with the Chief Public Prosecutor covered with blood by her side, things don’t look good for him. He also waited an hour before calling the police. He says however, that he did not commit this heinous crime but knows who did…Stale Salvesen, a man he’s never met and has no idea really what he looks like. Upon initial investigation, the link between  Halvorsrud and Salvesen is tenuous to say the least, and unfortunately for all involved, Salvesen can’t be found.


As the weeks pass, little to no new evidence is uncovered but what is uncovered is harmful to the defendant. When a second decapitation is discovered and Halvorsrud’s fingerprints are in the room, he is re-incarcerated, having been released due to family health crises.

Throughout Dead Joker, Anne Holt interweaves potential red herrings such as child molestation, bribery, unethical behavior, etc.

According to Series.com, the Online Guide to Series Fiction, “Anne Holt is one of the most successful Norwegian crime writers.  Trained as a lawyer, Holt has worked in broadcasting as a journalist and anchor woman.  She also spent two years working in the Oslo police force before opening her own law practice.  She has written five novels in the Vik/Stubo series.  Johanne Vik is a Norwegian-American psychology professor and former FBI profiler. She is the divorced caretaker of a mentally challenged six-year old. Adam Stubo is an Oslo police inspector who is recovering from the deaths of his wife and young child.  Together they are a formidable team. Holt has also written a series of eight crime novels starring lesbian police officer Hanne Wilhelmsen.  Scribner seems to be releasing them in the U.S, but not in the correct reading order.  1222 (Scribner, 2011) is the second book in the series.  The Blind Goddess (Scribner, 2012, published in Norway in 1993) is the first.  It introduces Hanne and tells how she became paralyzed. All of Holt’s mysteries are well-written and suspenseful.They feature fully drawn characters and plenty of Scandinavian atmosphere.”

Dead Joker is the latest in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, published in 1999 in Norway and 2016 in the U.S. Hanne Wilhelmsen is police officer extraordinaire! She is aided by a half dozen officers, one of whom is Billy T., her best friend. She is under a lot of pressure both personally and professionally, and as a result gets away with treating these coworkers quite shabbily. Dead Joker, however, is not really a police procedural in the vein of, say Icelander Arnaldur Indridason’s Detective Erlendur series. There was not a lot of procedure in the book.

Dead Joker concentrates on interpersonal relationships…between Hanne and her partner, Cecile, between Billy T and his soon to be wife, between Karen Borg, an attorney, and Hanne, etc. I cold keep going. However, having never read a Hanne Wilhelmsen book before, not knowing the backstory detracted from understanding what was going on, especially between Hanne and Cecile. As per Series.com, the “characters do seem fully drawn and there is plenty of Scandinavian atmosphere”, however, some backstory would be helpful for the uninitiated.

So, now I’m moving on to another Scandinavian (Icelandic) author, Yrsa Sigurdardottir. and her first book, Last Rituals. The books seem to be published in order in the U.S. and not with decades between the Scandinavian and U.S. editions. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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