Last week I posted my 2013 Reader Resolutions.
Item 14 on the list is “I will read a book written by a non-American.”
I figured this one would be fairly easy for me, given my love of Nordic mysteries and thrillers. I’m reading my fourth book of the year, and already half of them qualify for Item 14:
Punishment, by Anne Holt (also called What Is Mine). The first book in a series featuring Johanne Vik (a profiler trained by the FBI) and Adam Stubø (of the Norwegian National Criminal Investigation Service).
Detective Inspector Huss, by Helene Turstene. This is the first in a series featuring Detective Inspector Irene Huss of the Göteborg, Sweden, police.
Part of what I enjoy about Nordic crime novels is their wider focus. Many American crime novels focus specifically on the crimes under investigation. But Nordic society is so different from ours–in many ways they’ve been fairly homogenous, so relatively recent and generous immigration and refugee policies are having a different kind of impact in those countries than they would on the U.S., which views itself as a nation of immigrants.* A central theme in many Nordic crime novels is “What does it mean to be Swedish/Norwegian/Danish/Icelandic?” Another theme is the emerging racism in countries that view themselves as welcoming and tolerant. For me as an outsider, seeing wider societal issues addressed in crime fiction makes the books more compelling than American crime novels, which often focus on the psychology of the individual and ignore the broader social issues.
*It’s entirely possible that as an outsider, I’m reading something into these books that isn’t actually there, but even if that’s the case, it’s still fascinating to me!