If I dare, I’d like to kick off this review by saying that I think there is a glaring error in the subtitle of this new release from Palgrave Macmillan.
‘A’ Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction? Surely this is the Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, as the UK’s foremost crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw has gone definitive here with a triumphant volume that should sit proudly on every crime fiction fan’s bookshelf.
If you wanted a guide to take you down the dark and deadly streets of crime fiction, Mr Forshaw’s your man. If you need a Sherpa to lead you safely through the frozen and often deadly Scandinavian scenes of crime then, frankly, you can do no better. His passion for Stieg Larsson’s books is well known; his encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre is something to behold and this book presents so much more than a glorified ‘to read’ list, which it could have easily become in lesser skilled hands.
Entertaining and informative in equal measures, it provides insightful background to the books most crime fans will be familiar with and love, plus bang up to date information on new and upcoming authors and titles to watch out for, all through great essays and interview pieces. With sections from authors, translators & publishers, UK release dates and original dates of publication this is a tombe overflowing with reference and deep research and, above all else, an undying passion for the genre.
No study of the regions involved and the huge and rising popularity of their breed of crime fiction could go without mentioning the impact on television too, most obviously including the hugely successful Danish series The Killing – a masterclass of the themes and tone that appeal to so many within this genre. Further on in the book, television and film are honoured with their own chapter (including Henning Mankell’s Wallander and Arnaldur Indridason’s Jar City to name just two) – but not without constant referral back to their source material and authors.
All the heavy hitters, including Jo Nesbo and Camilla Lackberg are, of course, featured, but the inclusion of so many authors who may well have slipped by most readers makes reading the book somewhat akin to looking at the toy section of a mail order catalogue when younger and yet to discover the thrill of reading crime.
The importance of good translation is championed and rightly so, with good insights and interviews to describe how important it is to get things right in areas such as local customs, police ranks, locations and journeys – with Google Earth getting several plugs by translators for being so useful in their work. It’s also interesting to note, through the interviews with publishers, just how different and challenging it is for publishing houses to purchase a novel prior to being able to read it in English, often based purely on word of mouth from their overseas counterparts.
The book closes with a fantastic bibliography and index to enable the volume to be put to use for years to come every time you pick up a new Scandinavian crime fiction title or wish to seek out a new read. Had I realised that before I started reading, I wouldn’t have the huge scribbled list of books to seek out on the notepad that sat beside me as I read it.
Clearly written with passion and sure to be read with an equal amount of same.