Four crime novels for Easter reading
Christine Foster Meloni
Time to load up on crime novels for the Easter holidays! As we all know, Norway has given the world an impressive number of illustrious crime writers. Therefore, one faces an embarrassment of riches when trying to narrow the choices for Easter reading.
For this Easter I am going to offer a short list of my four favorite crime novelists and, for each writer, I will share with you one book that I have particularly liked. Choosing one book was definitely not easy because I would highly recommend every novel written by each of these authors.
Here is my list of my favorite Norwegian crime writers in alphabetical order: Thomas Enger, Karin Fossum, Jørn Lier Horst, and Jo Nesbø. Fossum and Nesbø are considered Norway’s literary royalty, Queen and King of Crime, respectively, and both are well known in the U.S. Enger and Horst are less well known, but their novels are equally well written with engaging characters and exciting plots.
Thomas Enger studied journalism and worked for the Norwegian online newspaper Nettavisen for nine years. He, therefore, knows the industry well and has created a very believable and interesting protagonist in journalist Henning Juul.
Enger’s first three books are Burned, Pierced, and Scarred. While not necessary to read them in order, it is to be recommended because the plots do sometimes overlap between books. It is also helpful to follow Juul’s development after the fire in which he was badly burned and lost his son.
I found Burned particularly interesting because it shed light on the tensions in Oslo that have been caused by immigration, particularly that of Muslims. The novel begins with the brutal murder of a beautiful college student. She is stoned to death and buried up to her neck. Since she had a Pakistani boyfriend, suspicion immediately falls on the Muslim community.
Before becoming a writer, Fossum had a variety of work experiences, including positions in mental institutions. This experience made her very sensitive to individuals who were not in mainstream society, who were outsiders. In her novels her protagonists, the ones who commit a crime, are people who are outsiders. Frequently, readers feel drawn to them and actually want them to elude the long arm of the justice system.
This is certainly the case in The Murder of Harriet Krohn. Charlo Torp has been having a difficult time in his life and has become involved in some shady dealings. But he loves his daughter very much and wants to develop a strong, healthy relationship with her. With this objective in mind, he devises a plan that goes very wrong and he kills a woman. We know that he is not a bad person, and we pull for him because we feel he deserves a second chance.
Jørn Lier Horst
Horst brings valuable professional experience to his role as a crime writer. He served several years as an investigating police officer in the city of Larvik and he, therefore, writes police procedurals that have realistic plots and authentic details. His protagonist, Inspector William Wisting, is also an experienced police officer in Larvik.
The Caveman is definitely my favorite so far. Viggo Hansen lives alone. He dies in his home and no one notices that he is missing for over four months. When she hears about this case, Wisting’s journalist daughter decides to write an article about Viggo. How could someone so completely disappear from society with no one seeming to care? Viggo soon appears on the radar screen of the police and the work of Wisting and his daughter intersect. The solution is intriguing and very unexpected!
Nesbø is undoubtedly the world’s best known Norwegian crime writer. Harry Hole, the main character in most of his novels, is well liked. Hole is a rather flawed individual but a brilliant investigator and, for all of his personal faults, he is popular with readers.
Nesbø is preoccupied with evil and all of his novels are quite dark. He wants to expose the dark side of a society that seems ideal. My favorite Nesbø novel is The Snowman. It is about a serial killer who builds a snowman in his victim’s yard the day before he kills her. The perp is definitely wicked, and you definitely want this individual caught and locked up, away from society. You seldom feel empathy for Nesbø’s bad guys although in his latest novels you very well might.
Crime novels by these authors may be enjoyed all year round but be Norwegian! Read several of them during the Easter holidays.
Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, DC. She values her Norwegian heritage.
This article originally appeared in the March 25, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.