Swedish Crime Writers

Sweden has a large number of excellent crime writers, and many of them have been translated into English during the last decade or so. The most well-known among these are Kerstin Ekman, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Karin Alvtegen, Carina Burman, Carin Gerhardsen, Anna Jansson, Mons Kallentoft, Lars Kepler, Maria Lang, Asa Larsson, Stieg Larsson, Camilla Läckberg, Jens Lapidus, Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund, Hakan Nesser, Kristina Ohlsson, Leif G. W. Persson, Helene Tursten, Karin Wahlberg, Kjell Eriksson, Arne Dahl (Jan Arnald), Mari Jungstedt, Inger Frimansson, Roslund Hellstrom, and Ake Edwardson.

Some of them, like Kerstin Ekman, Maria Lang, Sjowall & Wahloo, Mankell and Stieg Larsson, are already established as "stars" on the international crime book scene. Others, like Karin Alvtegen, Camilla Ceder, Camilla Lackberg, Liza Marklund, Ake Edwardson, Eriksson, Inger Frimansson, Anna Jansson, Mari Jungstedt, Asa Larsson, Hellstrom Roslund, Johan Theorin, Helene Tursten, and Hakan Nesser, have more recently become noted internationally for their crime novels. In addition, Jan Guillou is well established internationally as a writer of thrillers and historical novels.

Why Swedes write such excellent crime and mystery novels is hard to say. One reason may be that the Swedes love to read crime, and that there is considerable demand for crime literature in Sweden. Apart from that, who knows?

Here at ScandinavianBooks we will present these wonderful authors and their exciting books. While we feel we have come a long way, it will still take some time to do so, but we will attempt to add at least one or two books a week. We hope you enjoy our reviews, and even more that you will enjoy the books!

Also, please feel free to contribute your own reviews (by email to us), or get in touch with us if you have materials you would like us to present or if you want to support the site. We really need assistance, in almost any shape or form!

More Swedish Crime at this site:

See our reviews of Sjowall & Wahloo's books!
Here are also reviews of Henning Mankell's books (and more) and Stieg Larsson's wonderful The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.
And more reviews of Swedish crime! See also the overview of authors and books reviewed here.

Box 21, by Roslund Hellstrom

Box 21 (also published as The Vault) by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström is a strong, almost disgusting book about crime in Stockholm.

Box 21, Roslund Hellstrom

The main story of the book is about trafficking, prostitution, sexual abuse, and drugs. It is a very ambitious book - one of the most ambitious recent crime books I have read.

Two Lithuanian women, Lydia Grajaukas and Alena Sljusareva, are key figures in the story. They were lured to Sweden, having been promised good jobs and great future prospects. As it turns out, their jobs are to each serve 12 men sexually each day. As well, they find they are indebted over their heads, and that any attempt at protesting results in severe beatings.

However, Lydia comes up with a plan. And her plan is what the book is about. And as it unfolds, we are brought face to face with a world of murder, whippings, torture, drug dealings and junkies, kidnappings, professional enforcers, corruption and cover-ups, and mafia bosses, as well as passionate reprisals.

Box 21, the sequel to The Beast, is written in the Sjowall & Walloe tradition: It is full of implicit and explicit social critique. Again we meet detectives Ewert Grens and Sven Sundkvist. Their are magnificently described in the book. And the plot is truly great as well.

Box 21 is not at all a pleasant story: Detective Grens is very difficult to like, even though he is well described in the book. He is full of anger and has moral failings. Grens and Sundkvist are not merely investigating the crime, they are also in different ways implicated in it. And we become implicated along with them. As well, the abuse and violence is very vividly portrayed in the book. And the theme and some of the viewpoints at display in the book are plainly disgusting.

Box 21 is one of the most complex, involved, realistic and effective crime novels I know. The tough choices and moral dilemmas lived by the investigators seem very real. It is a an intense book, very much worth a read!

See our review of The Beast as well!

Under the Snow, by Kerstin Ekman

Kerstin Lillemor Ekman
(born 27 August 1933 Risinge) is a Swedish novelist. Kerstin Ekman wrote a string of successful detective novels (among others De tre små mästarna and Dödsklockan) but later went on to psychological and social themes.
Kerstin Ekman

Among her later works are Mörker och blåbärsris (1972) (set in northern Sweden) and Händelser vid vatten - Blackwater (1993), in which she returned to the form of the detective novel.

Read more about Kerstin Ekman in the fiction book section.

(Swedish title: De tre små mästerna). As a young writer Kerstin Ekman earned herself the name 'Deckardronning' (Queen of the Detective Story) in Sweden. Allegedly, when she began work on Blackwater, she told her husband: 'I do believe, after all these years, I'm writing a detective novel again!'. And it is a crime novel, yet also much more than that. Under the Snow is from 1961, when Kerstin Ekman was only 28. At the time she was firmly dedicated to the detective genre.

Under the Snow is a psychological thriller. It is set in a small village in northern Sweden. It is the dead of winter when Police Constable Torsson, a policeman originally from central Sweden, receives a call from Rakisjokk that artist and teacher Matti Olsson has been killed, forcing Torsson into a 25-mile trek on skis across the frozen lake. When he arrives, however, the community is in a state of anxiety, and inhabitants are strangely reticent, stories do not match one another, unexplainable details appear, and Torsson is unable to blame anything except the fearful cold for Olsson's death.

Under the Snow

It is only by accident that the case is reopened when Olsson's unsuspecting friend David Malm makes a summer visit and encounters a girl who has hit a reindeer with her car. In the car, Malm discovers a knapsack containing a bloody noose covered with human hair, and he forces Torsson to return to the isolated community, now bathed in perpetual sunlight. Slowly and painfully, the two penetrate the peculiar psychology of people who live half their lives in darkness, cut off from the rest of the world. Ekman's brilliant evocation of a place and culture above the Arctic Circle in Under the Snow is as compelling and mysterious as the crime itself.

David teams up with Torsson, and together they form an unexpected yet almost affectionate duo - they set out to get to the bottom of what happened that March night. They uncover a web of secrets. Everybody seems to have something to hide.

As a detective story Under the Snow contains a gallery of characters sufficiently strongly drawn for the solution to the puzzle to be a satisfactory and interesting one, and the mystery in the book has unexpected twists and wonderful characters that inspire humor, sympathy and contempt. An exciting and interesting book.


Harry D. Watson (6/1/2009):

You can add a new name to your list of Swedish crime writers. I only found out about MONS KALLENTOFT because I occasionally read the online version of "Østgøta Correspondenten", the local newspaper in Linkøping, Sweden, where I worked for several years in the 1970s as a teacher of English.Kallentoft is a local boy, it seems, and he is writing well-regarded thrillers set in his native city and province. I have copied the following from the publicity material put out by his literary agents. It seems the English-speaking world has yet to make his acquaintance. (Shortened by Peter)


Thanks. As you can see, I have added him to my list. I have read his books and like them. However, as far as I can see, his books are not yet translated into English?
The review of Hakan Nesser's The Return has been moved to the Hakan Nesser page!

The review of Liza Marklund's The Bomber has been moved to the Liza Marklund page.

The review of Island of the Naked Women has been moved to our Inger Frimansson page.

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