Give me five: Time to choose your Easter thrillers

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Easter is fast approaching. Folks in Norway are undoubtedly busy choosing which thrillers they will be reading over the Easter weekend. What about you? Have you finalized your reading list? If not, let me offer some suggestions. I would like to recommend five books, one each by five among the best Norwegian crime novelists.


Jo Nesbø, Norway’s undisputed King of Crime, is becoming very popular in the U.S. He is a very prolific writer, and each one of his novels is well written and electrifying. Although it is very difficult to choose one, I will single out The Snowman. This novel is fast paced and terrifying as a serial killer murders each victim after building a snowman in her yard. Although serial killers are rare in Norway, Police Investigator Hole is up to the task since he has taken an FBI course on serial killers.

black seconds

Karin Fossum, Norway’s undisputed Queen of Crime, is also gaining well-deserved recognition in the U.S. She too has written many novels, most now available in English. Her novels lack the action of Nesbø’s but they are intriguing psychological studies that look deeply into both the minds of the perpetrators and the victims of the crimes. One of my favorites is Black Seconds. A ten-year-old girl disappears without a trace. We follow Inspector Sejer as he tries to solve the case. We also see the impact that this crime has on the family, their friends, and the entire community.


Thomas Enger is not well known in the U.S. but he is considered one of the top four crime novelists in Norway today along with Nesbø, Fossum, and Staalesen. He has written six novels, and so far three have been translated into English. His protagonist is Henning Juul, an investigative reporter for a newspaper. Enger himself had a career in journalism, so he gives credibility to Juul. His first novel is Burned (see the review in the November 21, 2014, issue of NAW). Not only does it have an exciting plot, it also sheds light on problems between Norwegians and recent immigrants to Norway. The reader also learns a lot about the city of Oslo.


Gunnar Staalesen finds inspiration for his stories in the newspapers he reads every morning. He has written 16 novels in his Varg Veum series. Veum is a social worker turned private detective. The plots are exciting and the characters well developed. The setting is the city of Bergen and readers become acquainted with its inhabitants, culture, weather, and topography. In The Writing on the Wall, Veum is called upon to determine the cause of death of a judge who is found dead in a luxury hotel and to find a teenage girl who has disappeared. To solve these interrelated mysteries, Veum must venture into the criminal underworld of Bergen.


Jørn Lier Horst is another first-class writer who is not yet very familiar to American readers. Because of his experience as chief inspector detective in the CID (Crime Investigation Department) at the Vestfold Police district in Larvik, he provides authentic insights into police procedures. He has written nine novels, three of which have been translated into English. His novel Closed for Winter won the Norwegian Booksellers Prize in 2011. At the outset of this novel a man discovers a murder victim inside his neighbor’s cottage but the dead man is not his neighbor. The case is very complex, and the suspense becomes almost unbearable as Inspector William Wisting works very methodically to track down the dangerous criminals responsible for this and other crimes.

Any books by these five authors provide stimulating reading and, of course, Norway and the other Nordic countries offer numerous other wonderful crime novels. One finds an embarrassment of riches!

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 April 3, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and philosophy of education, and a doctorate in international education.

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