10 Thrilling Nordic Noir Novels

    The chilly locales in these thrillers are perfect for some stone-cold crime.

    Dark and brooding weather produces dark and gloomy thoughts. This is likely why Scandinavia, a region where there are less than six hours of sun a day in winter, is home to some of the greatest noir fiction writers. 

    Love for ‘Scandi crime’ runs deep. Whether you’ve only read Stieg Larsson or you’re an expert, these 10 novels will give you the best of both worlds: the cozy feeling of hygge and the most nightmarish misdeeds. Read on for the genre’s masterpieces and its best-kept secrets. 


    Buy Murder in the Dark at Amazon

    Murder in the Dark

    Murder in the Dark is a noir masterpiece from classic Danish author Dan Turèll. The Murder Series, which began in 1981 with this novel, takes us on an exhilarating stroll through Copenhagen and tells a compelling crime story. In each book of the series, a nameless reporter for the newspaper Bladet (literally, The Paper) is thrust into a mysterious murder. Turèll’s love for his city of Copenhagen—one of the few optimistic elements—is made clear in the saga.

    Related: 9 Beach Reads That'll Give You Chills on a Hot Day 

    Murder in the Dark

    By Dan Turèll

    Buy Smilla's Sense of Snow at Amazon

    Smilla's Sense of Snow

    If a character dies in a Nordic Noir novel, you can bet it’s not an accident. When Smilla Jaspersen, a lonely woman living in Copenhagen, finds out her six-year-old neighbor died of a fall from a snow-covered roof, she senses foul play. Though the case proves too arduous for the police, a resolute Smilla decides to launch her own investigation into the murder. The caustic, yet convincing, Smilla is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating protagonists in noir fiction. A 1997 movie adaptation is currently available on Netflix as a DVD rental.

    Smilla's Sense of Snow

    By Peter Høeg


    Buy Against the Wall (Helsinki Homicide) at Amazon

    Against the Wall (Helsinki Homicide)

    Finnish crime novels are one of the lesser-known gems of the world. An exposé of sometimes-mysterious Finland, Against the Wall follows Detective Lieutenant Kari Takamäki as he investigates a dead body found in a Helsinki garage. In order to solve this murder, he and the other detectives may have to break the law. The eighth installment of the Helsinki Homicide series, this was the first translated into English. Perhaps because Against the Wall won the Finnish Crime Novel of the Year in 2009. 

    Against the Wall (Helsinki Homicide)

    By Jarko Sipilä


    Buy Snowblind at Amazon


    It may not seem like things of such a terrible nature could happen in a serene fishing village in Iceland, but in Snowblind, they do: in Reykjavik, a young woman is found lying half-naked and bleeding in the snow while a famous writer falls to his death. Ari Thór Arason is only a novice policeman, and yet, he is brought to the middle of these two intense cases, trapped in his own darkness and that of the investigation. 

    Related: Killer Mystery and Thriller Book Sales This Month 


    By Ragnar Jonasson


    Buy The Bat at Amazon

    The Bat

    The Bat was the first of Nesbø’s Harry Hole novels. Oslo Inspector Hole is sent to Sydney to simply observe a murder case. Hole, feeling a debt to the murdered 23-year-old Norwegian, finds a way to get himself further involved in the case. When he and his fellow detectives discover that this murder is just the most recent of a chain, they realize the psychopath is still at large. Even the detectives themselves may be in danger.

    Buy Where Roses Never Die at Amazon

    Where Roses Never Die

    This novel is a chilling, thrilling rollercoaster ride: trust us, you won’t see the ending coming. When three-year-old Mette Misvær vanishes from outside her home in 1977, neither her community nor the police can discover where she went or who took her. Twenty five years later, Mette’s devastated mother decides to enlist the help of private investigator Varg Veum, her last resort. Of course, Veum discovers that there is more to the kidnapping than meets the eye. As disturbing patterns arise, the case takes a turn for the worst.

    Where Roses Never Die

    By Gunnar Staalesen


    Buy The Crow Girl at Amazon

    The Crow Girl

    This quintessential Nordic Noir read is dark and brooding, with a storyline that will pull you all over Stockholm. In a park, detectives uncover the mutilated body of a young boy. When the fussy city police won’t provide the resources necessary to solve the immigrant child’s murder, things go sour. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg and company find even more child corpses who have been tortured in unimaginable ways. Jeanette attempts to learn about the machinations of a killer’s mind, with the help of her therapist, to solve the murders.

    Related: 8 Crime Noir Books That Will Have You Reaching for Your Trench Coat 

    The Crow Girl

    By Erik Axl Sund

    Buy Roseanna at Amazon


    Roseanna, first published in 1965, is perhaps the ur-Nordic noir. It set the standard in many ways. For example, the novel begins with the discovery of a dead body in a peculiar locale. In this particular case, the young woman’s body, found in a Swedish canal, is unidentifiable—as is the murderer’s identity. After Interpol is able to ID the victim as an American tourist, an extensive investigation into the circumstances of her murder begins. Tracking down the suspect proves to be an arduous feat, and the marathon doesn’t end after he is caught. 


    By Maj Sjöwall & Per Wallhöö

    Buy The Dying Detective at Amazon

    The Dying Detective

    Hard-boiled detective Lars Martin Johansson has retired from the police force and moved from Stockholm to the Swedish countryside. When he is hospitalized after a stroke, there isn’t much that can keep him going: that is, except for an unsolved murder case whose victim is a nine-year-old girl. Johansson is a Sherlock-like detective, who takes on cases partly for the thrill. He decides to conduct the investigation from his hospital bed. As the case becomes more and more chilling, he realizes that the death he nearly evaded may be approaching quickly after all.

    The Dying Detective

    By Leif G.W. Persson

    Buy The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at Amazon

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

    The recent American hunger for Swedish noir is due almost wholly to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its English translation. The novel, the first in the Millennium series, follows pierced and tattooed hacker Lisbeth Salander as she helps journalist Mikael Blomkvist investigate the four-decade-old murder of a member of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families. Larsson’s novel has since been adapted into a film in its native Sweden and a David Fincher-directed American version, starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.

    Related: Lisbeth Salander Returns in The Girl in the Spider's Web Trailer 

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

    By Stieg Larsson

    Featured still from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" via Yellow Bird  


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