Thanks to Stieg Larsson’s massive-selling Millennium trilogy, crime novels from Scandinavia have run riot across American reading lists — and in the red-hot genre’s latest wave, the dicks are chicks. But even though they rule the bestseller lists in their progressive homelands, these women crime writers can run up against an icy wall of chauvinism from the local competition: Many critics and fellow authors dismiss their talents, lumping their work under the derogatory label “femicrime.” Lucky for us, the kerfuffle hasn’t stopped American publishers from churning out translations as fast as they arrive.
Red Wolf by Liza Marklund
Though American readers are just getting acquainted with Marklund, she’s a powerhouse in Europe, not just as a bestselling author but also as co-owner of one of Sweden’s largest publishing houses. Her series featuring crime reporter Annika Bengtzon is known for its dark feel, savvy tone and plots packed with more twists than a paperclip factory. Oh, and she’s co-written a book with some guy named James Patterson.
The Preacher by Camilla Läckberg
Corpses and small-town secrets abound in Läckberg’s popular series — she’s already written eight novels — set in a remote fishing village. Sweden’s top-selling author, Läckberg expertly balances hardboiled crime with human drama in the evolving relationship of series fixtures detective Patrik Hedstrom and writer Erica Falck.
Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson
Larsson (no relation to Stieg) was raised in a tiny Arctic Circle hamlet called Kiruna; before becoming a full-time writer, she practiced law. Her recurring heroine, Rebecka Martinsson, shares a similar resume. In a land of extremes — white nights and months of darkness — Rebecka pokes around the shadier side of humanity and gets into vast trouble when the spring thaw reveals a body and hints of a decades-old Nazi conspiracy.
Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten
Working the violent crimes beat in Goteborg, Sweden, detective Irene Huss has to balance the demands of the job with the responsibilities of being a mother to twin teenage daughters. But Tursten’s novels aren’t quaint, bloodless affairs: All the ills society has to offer — you’ll even catch a bit of necrosadism (pretty much what it sounds like) — feature heavily in this hardboiled series.
Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum
In the never-named Norwegian hamlet where Inspector Konrad Sejer and his young partner, Jakob Skarre, attempt to keep the peace, escaped killers, pedophiles and all manner of criminal scum stalk the idyllic landscape. Fossum, who began her writing career as a poet, goes heavy on the melancholy, bringing to mind the brooding Wallander of Henning Mankell.
1222 by Anne Holt
Holt — formerly Norway’s Minister for Justice — has enjoyed an 18-year bestselling streak for her long-running series featuring lesbian police inspector Hanne Wilhemsen. Now Wilhemsen’s coming to America, and is poised to make a splash with this chilling Scandinavian take on the locked-room mystery.
Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel
Blaedel may have only just made her American debut in August, but she’s big business in her native Denmark, where she founded a publishing house. Princess introduces Detective Rick, whose investigation of a rape takes her into the darkest corners of the online dating world. Blaedel isn’t afraid to go to some seedy corners in her books, ideal for readers who take their mysteries dark and strong.
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Coming to crime writing from fantasy (Kaaberbol) and children’s literature (Friis), this Danish duo has made waves in Europe with their series featuring Red Cross nurse Nina Borg, whose devotion to her work sidelines the needs of her own family. This series kick-off begins as Borg finds a boy stuffed in a suitcase and left for dead, igniting a taut, topical story that touches on hot-button issues like immigration and human trafficking.