Danish Crime Writers
The Danish crime writers are not nearly as well known as their Swedish colleagues. It is hard to know why, but they are fewer and less well-known, for some or other reason.
The Danish crime writers that publish their books internationally are (to the best of our knowledge - please correct any mistakes): Jussi Adler-Olsen, Erik Amdrup, Sara Blædel, Anders Bodelsen, Leif Davidsen, Christian Dorph, Elsebeth Egholm, Anders Bodelsen, Jonas Bruun, Gretelise Holm, Christian Jungersen, Michael Larsen, Henning Mortensen, Torben Nielsen, Simon Pasternak, Hans Scherfig, Dan Turèll and Inger Wolf.
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Anders Bodelsen, Leif Davidsen, Christian Jungersen, Michael Larsen and Torben Nielsen have been translated to English. Some would also count Peter Hoeg's international bestselling novel Smilla's Sense of Snow as a crime book.
The most recent additions, in 2011, have been Kaaberbol and Friis (with their Nina Borg mystery series) and the very interesting Jussi Adler-Olsen. Adler-Olsen's novels about Department Q are outstanding, and I am sure they will become bestsellers in the English-speaking countries.
Lime's Photograph, by Leif Davidsen
Lime's Photograph is a thriller with a paparazzo - a lone wolf - as the main character. His name is Peter Lime. He leads a charmed life. “I made my living from today's narcissism and insatiable appetite for gossip. I was the man sitting in the middle of the global village square, passing on gossip about the famous.” He has just successfully photographed a Spanish minister in a compromising position with a beautiful young Italian actress. So now he stands to make a lot of money from these pictures. Also, he is married to a woman he is very much in love with and has a daughter.
However, his whole life starts to unravel when he is arrested for the pictures. While imprisoned his home is destroyed in an explosion. Lime - an intriguing character who is a weak, but handsome man and whose weakness is drink - must discover who wants him dead and why. Will he be able to get on with his life after the tragedy?
It's all in Lime's Photograph: the hippie movement of the 60's, the cold war, the socialist movement, the death of Franco, the KGB, the Stasi, the ETA, the IRA, the EU, the fall of the Berlin wall, the re-unification of Germany, bullfighting, globalization. It's a very European story, and takes place in Spain for the most part, but with some parts happening in Copenhagen, Berlin and Moscow.
Leif Davidsen transports the reader through Lime's various trips through the Basque, Spanish and Danish countryside, and back in time to the radical left of 1970's, the Berlin Wall coming down at the end of the 1980's, and the glamorous life of the 1990's.Lime's Photograph is filled with nice philosophizing and occasional ruminations: “If you live by the media, you die by the media. Either abruptly, or that slow, painful death, when no one points the viewfinder at you any more. When you're no longer a story, just a memory."
In Lime's Photograph, Leif Davidsen has written a compelling and fascinating tale, and the book is well-written, even though Davidsen occationally gets bogged down in details. Leif Davidsen's characters in Lime's Photograph come across as real people. Lime's Photograph is interesting, exciting, and has lots of action. It is a great thriller!
The Boy in the Suitcase, by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
The Boy in the Suitcase is a new, wonderful addition to the already quite large Scandinavian crime fiction literature in translation. For a long time, writers from Sweden, Norway and Iceland dominated international Scandinavian crime fiction, but now several new and very interesting Danish writers are being published internationally as well. Earlier this year, the first book in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s series about Department Q and the peculiar and quite intuitive detective Carl Morck was published both in the UK and the US. And now we get the first installment in Kaaberbøl and Friis’ excellent series of their Nina Borg Mysteries.
The very intriguing mystery in The Boy in the Suitcase revolves around the finding of a small boy in a luggage locker in Copenhagen Central Station. Inside a suitcase. Neatly folded. For that is how you go about smuggling a 3 year old boy into Denmark: You fold him neatly and put him in a suitcase?!
Nina Borg, a nurse working with immigrants in Denmark for the Danish Red Cross, is the person who makes the shocking discovery. She was asked by her friend Karen to retrieve the suitcase. Nina is utterly stunned. Who is the little boy? Why was he left there? Where is he from? What language does he speak? And what now? What should she do?
The plot has several threads that are interwoven, and the authors move from one thread to the next sequentially. The main threads involve the well-to-do Danish architect who has purchased a “good”; a shady Eastern European gangster who has sold the “good”; a Lithuanian single mother named Sigita who doesn’t drink, but nevertheless has somehow become so intoxicated that she almost lost her life and who is now living through the nightmare of having lost what some others consider a “good”; and the energetic and at times quite single-minded Nina Borg who is now in possession of what for some is the “good” but for her is a problem and something she feels compassion for.
The Boy in the Suitcase tells an ugly tale about the buying and selling of human beings and the disgusting realities of this kind of trade. The authors do not describe this market in the abstract, but instead give it a human face: the faces of the neatly folded little boy named Mikas and his mother Sigita, the face of the rich Dane who wants to buy a better life and marital bliss, the face of the gangster who is a businessman and just wants to make a little money, and others.
It is a very strong story. And in the midst of it is Nina, who, after retrieving the suitcase, has a hard time getting in touch with her friend Karin. And then Karin is brutally murdered by hard men searching for the “good” that was lost; the “good” which to them means a fortune and is a means to realize dreams. Now Nina realizes that her life too is in danger and that someone is after her and the boy. As the pursuers get closer and closer, she tries to find out who the boy is and how to best deal with the horrible situation.
The Boy in the Suitcase is an exceptional crime fiction debut that shines a light on a tragic and real social issue. It manages to address this problem with a seriousness and social conscience that add significant weight to the story. It is an engaging, suspenseful, and excellently written crime fiction novel with complex and well-drawn characters which has been a bestseller throughout Scandinavia. The Boy in the Suitcase is definitely worth a read!
Reviews of The Boy in the Suitcase:
"Stunning. Hooked me from the beginning. The Danish bourgeoisie and the criminal underworld collide in a moving, fast-paced thriller with psychological depth."—Cara Black, bestselling author of Murder in the Marais
“Among the best crime novels of the year…. marks Kaaberbol and Friis as serious talents to be reckoned with, ready to be discovered by an American audience.”—Publishers Marketplace
"This is a thrilling and most urgent novel reflecting a terrifying reality."—Maj Sjowall, bestselling co-author of the Martin Beck series
The Exception, by Christian Jungersen
This is an ambitious novel. The Exception deals, at the macro level, with a horrifying subject — genocide. At the micro level it deals with blame, harassment, and psychological warfare in an office. The action takes place in Copenhagen’s Danish Center for Information on Genocide. Its mission is “to collect data about genocide and make it available, both in Denmark and abroad, to researchers, politicians, aid organizations, and other interested parties.”
The center’s staff compiles and organizes documents and books about these subjects. They also write papers, prepare exhibitions, organize conferences, and assist researchers. Then one day, two of the employees receive anonymous death threats by e-mail. It initially seems plausible that they are being threatened by some enraged neo-Nazi, a war criminal on the run, or some such person. Gradually suspicion falls on the colleagues instead.
The quiet office turns, with four people working in it, into a paranoid theater of warfare, with shifting antagonisms and alliances. They engage in a game of psychological warfare that turns deadly.Focus is turned towards the examination of evil at the workplace. Malene, Iben, and Camilla decide to gang up on Anne-Lise and they make her life unbearable.
The Exception is a book of five hundred pages. Sometimes it feels a little too long, sometimes a little to repetitious, and sometimes a little too detailed. All of the characters have deeply realized back stories, ambitions and pains. And using flashbacks and alternating chapters, Jungersen tells the story from various points of view. A little more economy in the composition would maybe have served the purpose of telling the story better.
However, The Exception is a provocative book and explores significant issues. It raises many questions it never fully answers. Does evil reside equally in everyone? What is the role played by individual's traits and outlooks?
Order The Exception by Christian Jungersen from amazon UK.