Today's Times has an entertaining article about how publishers are scrambling, in the wake of Stieg Larsson's wild success, to publish more Scandinavian (and Icelandic, and Finnish) mystery novels. Here's a sample:
If there is a formula to the genre, it often includes a cold, stark setting and a grizzled detective figure who consumes too much coffee and junk food. The book covers tend to the bleak and icy, with images of frozen lakes, barren forests and perhaps a foreboding bloodstain.
At Powell’s in Portland, Mr. Larsson’s books are selling so quickly — at least 1,500 a week — that the store’s grateful employees have given them a nickname.“We call them ‘The Girl Who’s Paying Our Salaries for the Next Few Months,’ ” said Gerry Donaghy, the new-book purchasing supervisor.
That makes these books the Harry Potter series of 2010.
I'm surprised, though, that this article doesn't mention the Martin Beck series, written by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo in the 1960s and 1970s. They're the real progenitors of the Scandinavian style; the books are bleakly plotted and you get a real sense of the looming darkness of the Swedish winter. Give them a try!