If Anne Swinford, who was my boss and is my friend had never introduced me to Swedish author Stieg Larsson, by loaning me The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I would have remained virtually ignorant about Scandinavia and would have missed out on reading some of the most intriguing books filled with a vast array of broken, fragile people struggling to find footing in this world while working to help others…often reluctantly. I would have known next to nothing about the history of the region or the present challenges socially, politically and spiritually.
First, Scandinavia is a historical and cultural-linguistic region in Northern Europe characterized by a common ethno-cultural Germanic heritage and related languages. It comprises the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula, whereas modern Denmark consists of Jutland and the Danish islands. Denmark and Sweden are connected by the Øresund Bridge which is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe, connecting Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö, Sweden.
World War II left indelible marks on each of these countries, but in different ways. All still live with these triumphs and scars, which when you scratch the surface of any of the novels’ plots you find open wounds from that era that influences their social systems and political parties. Religiously each of these countries is Christian, simply because each has an established State Church…like many places with State supported church systems…Christian does not imply a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. Other Christian Churches and other faiths are protected so there is religious diversity. Immigrants from Eastern European nations and from the Middle East, many who are refugees are a growing population through out Scandinavia.
From my introduction via The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I finished Larsson’s Trilogy, all of which were published posthumously. There were allegations that his death in 2004 was related to the manuscripts. As editor in chief of the magazine Expo, Larsson was a leading expert on anti-democratic right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations operating in Scandinavia.
Next through a Free Magazine found in Libraries called Book Page, I discovered four other authors, two men and two women, the women are a writing team. So began Min hemliga lidelse (My secret passion) for Scandinavian authors in the mystery/crime/police genre.
I feel certain some of my best friends would scratch their heads in wonder that I, given my background and faith, would find the macabre situations, graphic violence, sex, profanity contained in these books tolerable, let alone entertaining. I acknowledge their concerns, because sometimes I wonder about that also. I even find myself praying for these fictional characters, Harry Hole, the alcoholic self destructive police inspector from Oslo, Carl Mørck, the Head of Department Q, still suffering from PTSD, as the lone survivor when an incident gone wrong caused the death of one partner and the paralytic injury of the other and Nora Borg, Social worker and nurse, damaged by her past, intent on saving the world at the detriment of her own family.
In every one of these novels, religion enters the picture, sometimes through bizarre cults, but just as often through the characters who express ‘no trust’ in God, Christ, or His Church so often that I sense the longing in those expressions. Somewhere in the midst of their declarations of unbelief, I hear their cries to move from ‘no trust’ to ‘know trust’ in God. So I find myself loving these fragile, flawed, broken souls, who are so like me in many ways. . .and the creative authors who bring them to life.
So here they are with my recommendations for which book to read first:
Carl Valdemar Jussi Henry Adler-Olsen (born August 2, 1950) is a Danish author, publisher, editor and entrepreneur. [Wikipedia]
Jussi Adler-Olsen’s career is characterised by his great involvement in a wide range of media related activities. In 1984, he made his debut as a non-fiction writer. 1997 saw his debut as a fiction writer.
I love his books because he manages to add a layer of humor that prevents the books from sinking into depressive downers. Read The Keeper of Lost Causes first.
Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis are the Danish duo behind the Nina Borg series. Friis is a journalist by training, while Kaaberbøl has been a professional writer since the age of 15, with more than 2 million books sold worldwide. Their first collaboration, The Boy in the Suitcase, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, and has been translated into more than 30 languages.
The heroine’s compassion and confusion about how to prioritize and still save the world add a layer of humanity to their books. I recommend The Boy in the Suitcase first. I mean what if you were left in charge of a suitcase with a naked boy inside.
Jo Nesbo pronounced [ˈju ˈnɛsbø] is a Norwegian author and musician. As of March 2014 more than 3 million copies of his novels have been sold in Norway, and his work has been translated into over 40 languages, selling 23 million copies. Nesbø is primarily known for his crime novels about Inspector Harry Hole, but he is also the main vocalist and songwriter for the Norwegian rock band Di Derre.
I read The Bat, first. It was not the first of this series translated into English, but it is the first Harry Hole novel. Unlike the others I have read it is set in Australia not Norway or Thialand.
Admittedly these books are not for everyone, but try one before you decide.
And, thanks again, Anne Swinford without you and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I would not have developed my secret passion for Scandinavian thrilllers/mysteries/detective novels.
*My secret passion