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Throughout its history, crime literature has operated as a sort of imaginative
travel agency, taking customers across borders and introducing them to unknown cultures. The story commonly considered the birth of the whodunit – Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murder in the Rue Morgue" (1841), was written by an American and set in Paris. Since then, the genre has regularly been a ticket for a Grand Tour.

Agatha Christie, an enthusiastic globe-trotter through her wealth and marriage to an archaeologist, sent Hercule Poirot on the Orient Express, Nile cruises and aeroplane journeys, depicting trips that the majority of her audience was unlikely ever to experience for real. Later in the 20th century, readers, listeners and viewers of detective tales learned about France from Simenon's Maigret and the Netherlands through Nicolas Freeling's Commissaris Van der Valk, who achieved the rare double of topping both the TV ratings lists (in the ITV series starring Barry Foster) and the pop charts, with the Simon Park's Orchestra recording of the theme tune "Eye Level".

And, these days, Britons have a greater understanding of Scandinavian culture than ever before: not from exports such as Abba, Bjorn Borg, Volvo or Ikea, but through what was – at least until the recent apothesois of sado-masochistic soft porn – the biggest publishing phenomenon of the 21st century: the super-selling mystery stories of writers from Sweden (Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell) and Norway (Jo Nesbø). (courtesy of the Guardian).

There are obvious trends in writing style, subject and even the locale of  authors.  In more recent years the chilly winters and short days have spawned a glut of Scandinavian authors.
Henning Mankell, Sidetracked
Henning Mankell, The Fifth WomanHenning Mankell, One Step BehindHenning Mankell, possible the most influential of the Scandinavian writers over the last 15 years, runs his own publishing house, Leopard, which supports budding writers in Sweden and Africa.  He is the founder of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique and is married toEva, the daughter of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman

Stieg Larsson was a journalist and politically the extreme right.  His Millenium trilogy was only published after his death in 2004. Nooma Rapace who played Lisbeth Salander in the original films, followed the character and her storyline as closely as she could, even going on strike when asked to do things that were not in accordance with Stieg's writing.  His life partner, Eva, an architect and author, says there is no fourth book, but there is an ongoing battle with his family over copywrights.

Camilla Lackberg hails from a small town on Sweden's west coast and this provides the setting for her thrillers which are less blood and guts and more psychological.

Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian, used to be a financial analyst and after work he was a singer in a rock band.  He also played soccer for a premier league team. His main character, Harry Hole, is a high achiever, graduating from law school and the Police Academy. He's also been trained by the FBI.
Jo Nesbo, The RedbreastJo Nesbo, The Devil's StarJo Nesbo, The Snowman

Hakan Nesser, Lisa Marklund, Ake Edwardson (was Press Officer for  the United Nations), and Karin Alvtegen are also authors" in the north".

Jussi-Adler Olsen's father was a psychiatric doctor so he got to know the mental facilities across Denmark.  He then studied medicine, sociology and cinematography.  Now his crime novels are set in Copenhagen and dark humour weaves its way through the book.

Asa Larsson used to be a tax lawyer, the same occupation as her female lead character.  The themes draw from the Old Testament, and the main character has to deal with the violent crimes and her demons of the past.

Kerstin Ekman  The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded by the Swedish Academy of which Kerstin was a life member.  She left in 1987 because she felt the Academy failed to support Salman Rushdie in the "Satanic Verses" controversy.  Her Academy chair remains empty to this day

Anne Holt, a Norwegian lawyer and former Minister of Justice, worked for the Oslo Police Department for 2 years before starting her own legal practice.

Arnaldur Indridason is an Icelandic author, so we have a cold, volcanic island setting.  In 2004, 7 of the10 most borrowed titles from the Reykjavik Library were his.

Karin Fossum, When the Devil Holds the CandleKarin Fossum,  once a taxi driver, is the reputed Norwegian Queen of Crime.  The Times of London rates her as one of the top 50 greatest crime writers of ALL time.Karin Fossum, The Indian BrideKarin Fossum, Black Seconds

Lars Kepler had an instant hit with "The Hypnotist", voted one of the top 10 best crime novels of 2011 by the Wall Street Journal.  As there were no pictures of Kepler, the New York Times wrote that he was in fact Henning Mankell (not even in disguise), who was "an authorbot engineered by the Swedes to further their takeover of the global publishing industry".  Kepler is merely a pseudonym used by a husband and wife team.

Hakan Nesser, Lisa Marklund, Karin Alvtegen and Ake Edwardson who was Press Officer for the United Nations, are also authors " in the north".

Final thought.....the Swedish alphabet has 29 letters, so more choice, more words, longer books?   Maybe not.

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