Scandinavian Murder Mysteries

Updated: November 6, 2020

Stieg Larsson may be Scandinavia's best known writer of suspense and murder. However, there are other writers who use this region as a backdrop for complex murder mysteries and thrillers.

Book cover for Blackwater
Ekman, Kerstin, 1933-
On Midsummer's Eve 1974, Anne Raft and her daughter Mia hike to a commune in the wilds outside the remote hamlet of Blackwater. At the commune, she finds two dead bodies and gets a glimpse of the man who she thinks has killed them. In 1992, she sees the face again and it belongs to the man dating her daughter.

Book cover for Borkmann's point : an Inspector Van Veeteren mystery
Borkmann's point : an Inspector Van Veeteren mystery
Call Number: M
Inspector Van Veeteren is returning from vacation when a brutal axe murder is committed in the neighboring town--the second of its kind in two months. Van Veeteren works with the local police in order to judge if this is mere coincidence or the start of a serial-killing spree. The book's title refers to a point in an investigation when enough evidence has been gathered to solve the case.

Book cover for A conspiracy of faith.
A conspiracy of faith.
Adler-Olsen, Jussi.
Call Number: M

Detective Carl Mørck and his eccentric group of police officers in Copenhagen’s Department Q specialize in cold cases. In this installment of a popular series, the piece of evidence that is delivered to Mørck’s desk is a message in a bottle, written in the blood of a kidnap victim years earlier. It turns out that the kidnapper/killer, who targets families belonging to fringe religions, is still very much alive and active.

Book cover for Dead joker : a Hanne Wilhelmsen novel
Dead joker : a Hanne Wilhelmsen novel
Holt, Anne, 1958-
Call Number: M

This author’s series, set in Oslo, centers on police detective Hanne Wilhelmsen. In this episode, as Hanne deals with her longtime live-in partner’s cancer diagnosis, she is also investigating the murder of the wife of Oslo’s chief public prosecutor, decapitated with her own antique sword. The prosecutor claims he was held at gunpoint while a local businessman, who blamed the prosecutor’s office for his bankruptcy, killed his wife. But several witnesses say that the businessman committed suicide by jumping off a bridge several days before the murder.

Book cover for Detective Inspector Huss
Detective Inspector Huss
Tursten, Helene, 1954-
Call Number: M
In Detective Inspector Huss, Irene Huss is a forty-something mother of twins, judo expert and detective with the city homicide department who is pulled into an investigation that involves multiple murders, bombings, and a conspiracy involving an unholy combination of Sweden's most powerful businessmen, vicious gangs of drug dealers, and neo-Nazi skinheads. Meanwhile, Irene is unsettled by her daughter's creepy boyfriend.

Book cover for Don't look back
Don't look back
Fossum, Karin, 1954-
Call Number: M
Karin Fossum, "Norway's Queen of Crime," presents Konrad Sejer, a tough cop and sad widower, who relentlessly pursues the murderer of a young and popular local athlete in a small village where everyone seems to know everyone else's business, yet no one has a clue regarding the crime. As he finds out more about the victim's life, the plot twists and turns, revealing surprise after surprise that shows the darker side of the town and of human nature.

Book cover for The forgotten girls
The forgotten girls
Blædel, Sara.
Call Number: M

Hailed as Denmark’s “queen of crime”, Blædel has written a series of books about police detective Louise Rick. In this one, Louise has just taken a new job as head of the Special Search Unit in Copenhagen when she’s sent to the rural area near where she grew up to identify a body found in the woods. The dead woman proves to be one of a pair of twins, brain-damaged at birth, both of whom had supposedly died over 30 years earlier, according to the agency that housed them.

Book cover for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Larsson, Stieg, 1954-2004.

Perhaps the most famous of the current crop of Scandinavian psychological thrillers, this is the first of three novels pairing misunderstood genius Lisbeth Salander and determined journalist Mikael Blomkvist as they encounter violence and corruption to get to the bottom of a long-ago disappearance.

Book cover for The hand that trembles
The hand that trembles
Eriksson, Kjell, 1953-
Call Number: M

This Swedish author’s work is distinctive for its setting in the university city of Uppsala. The central character, detective Ann Lindell, is dealing with several puzzling cases in this series installment. A local politician who disappeared twelve years earlier after walking out of a meeting is discovered living happily in Bangalore, India, by an Uppsala resident who happens to run into him there. Back home, the politician’s abandoned wife is in the hospital, having been hit by a truck. And Ann is also trying to trace a woman’s severed foot that washed ashore outside a nearby village

Book cover for Jar city : a Reykjavík thriller
Jar city : a Reykjavík thriller
Call Number: M
In Iceland, the land of fire and ice, Inspector Erlendur investigates a cold case that blows hot when he begins to uncover secrets that have been hidden by many people for many years. As he follows a fascinating trail of unusual forensic evidence (DNA evidence takes on a whole new meaning in Iceland, one of the most genetically homogenous populations on the planet.), Erlendur also confronts his own past and a complicated relationship with his daughter.

Book cover for Killer's art
Killer's art
Jungstedt, Mari, 1962-
Call Number: M

This novel and several others by the author are set on the island of Gotland, off the coast of Sweden. In the island’s principal town of Visby, the naked, battered body of art dealer Egon Wallin is found hanging from the historic “Gate of Love”. Police inspector Anders Knutas discovers that Wallin was about to leave his wife, who becomes a prime suspect, but when a painting is stolen from Wallin’s gallery, it appears that his professional involvements may have led to his death.

Book cover for Knife
Nesbø, Jo, 1960-
Call Number: M

Oslo Police Detective Harry Hole thinks he's finally hit bottom: dumped by his wife, his job in jeopardy, and his only escape the blackout drinking that nearly killed him. Then one morning he wakes up from a bender, drenched in blood, with no memory of the night before. When he learns someone he had reason to kill has been stabbed to death, Harry suddenly knows he's still got a whole lot further to fall.

Book cover for Lethal investments
Lethal investments
Dahl, Kjell Ola, 1958-
Call Number: M

Norwegian author Dahl’s American publisher likes to call him “the godfather of Nordic Noir”. This book was actually the first in his Oslo Detectives series featuring cops Gunnarstranda and Frølich, though it was not translated into English until after several of the others. The stabbing death of pretty software saleswoman Reidun Rosendal is the crime under investigation, and the police soon discover that she had an elderly and voyeuristic neighbor who is sure that the killer was a ponytailed man who visited her apartment. But when both the neighbor and the man he accused also meet violent ends, Gunnarstranda and Frølich turn their attention to her co-workers.

Book cover for Linda, as in the Linda murder : an Evert Bäckström novel
Linda, as in the Linda murder : an Evert Bäckström novel
Persson, Leif G. W.
Call Number: M

One of the more eccentric police detectives in Scandinavian crime fiction is Evert Bäckström of Sweden’s National Crime Unit. His hard drinking and unpleasant personality mask a keen intellect and a knack for solving difficult cases. This particular assignment involves the rape and murder of police cadet Linda Wallin in the town of Växjö. Bäckström is thrilled to be put in charge of the case, because it will give him a chance to demonstrate the incompetence of the local police, but the town becomes increasingly apprehensive as the big city experts find it harder to wrap things up than they'd expected.

Book cover for The lost boy
The lost boy
Läckberg, Camilla, 1974-
Call Number: M

This author’s series featuring police detective Patrik Hedström takes place in the small Swedish coastal town of Fjällbacka. In this book, Patrik is investigating the murder of the town’s finance director, Mats Sverin, a man who was well-liked but very private. Could his death be connected to the fact that he spent his last night with his long-ago first love, recently returned to town with her five-year-old son?

Book cover for The night ferry
The night ferry
Hammer, Lotte
Call Number: M

Like several other Scandinavian crime series, this one has two authors; in this case they are sister and brother. The central character is Konrad Simonsen, detective chief superintendent of the Copenhagen police. In this book, Simonsen has a particularly horrific crime to solve. A man drops from a canal bridge onto a tour boat filled mostly with children and stabs the captain, the tour guide, and two other adults to death; the only other adult passenger jumps overboard and drowns, while the killer swims to safety. With no adults on board, the tour boat drifts until it is rammed by a night ferry, killing most of the children. When it turns out that one of the dead adults was an officer in Simonsen’s department who was supposedly on vacation, finding the killer becomes even more urgent.

Book cover for One step behind
One step behind
Mankell, Henning, 1948-
Call Number: M
Wallander is a middle-aged chief inspector with a load of personal baggage: his wife has left him, his father suffers from dementia, and he is estranged from his daughter. In One Step Behind, Wallander investigates a triple murder committed in the woods on Midsummer's Eve. Then, one of Wallander's colleagues is found murdered, leading Wallander to wonder if the crimes are connected.

Book cover for The Redbreast
The Redbreast
Renegade cop Harry Holt lives on the seamy side of society and would have been fired long ago but for his excellent policing skills. Redbreast is set during former President Clinton's visit to Norway, where against his will, Harry is pulled into security duty. An incident during the visit leads him to an investigation of neo-Nazi activity in Norway, which itself leads back to a crime that has its roots in the battlefields of the Eastern Front during World War II.

Book cover for Roseanna
Call Number: M Ed.a
Sjowell and Wahloo were the progenitors of the modern Swedish crime novel. Their ten police procedurals are intended to be a three-hundred chapter chronicle of the breakdown of order in Swedish society. The protagonist, Martin Beck, is a harried detective with an unhappy home life who is obsessive about his cases. In the first Beck book, Roseanna, a young woman's body is pulled from a lake. With no clues, Beck begins an investigation to discover the identity of the victim as well as the murderer.

Book cover for The sandman : a Joona Linna novel
The sandman : a Joona Linna novel
Kepler, Lars
Call Number: M

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of married couple Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril, both of whom have also written numerous books separately under their own names. Their Swedish publisher recently announced that “Lars Kepler” sold more books in Sweden than any other author in any genre during the decade of the 2010s. Most of their books, including this one, feature police inspector Joona Linna, head of the National Operations Department in Stockholm. When Mikael, a young man who was presumed to be a victim of notorious captured serial killer Jurek Walter, escapes from captivity and describes the kidnapper he calls “the sandman”, Linna realizes that Walter has an accomplice who is still on the loose and under his control. He sends a young police detective undercover into Walter’s psychiatric unit, hoping to learn the identity of “the sandman” and rescue Mikael’s sister, who’s still being held prisoner.

Book cover for Someone to watch over me
Someone to watch over me
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Call Number: M

This is the author’s fifth book featuring Icelandic attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir. It begins with Thóra being hired by heinous pedophile Jósteinn Karlsson to investigate the case of a young man with Down syndrome named Jakob, who is Jósteinn’s fellow inmate at a psychiatric facility. Jakob was convicted of setting a fire eighteen months earlier at his group home that killed five people, but Thóra soon agrees that Jakob’s guilt is definitely open to question. She is also troubled by Jósteinn’s reasons for involving her in the case; he claims his only motive is helping out a friend, but Thóra senses that something more complicated and sinister is going on.

Book cover for Sun and shadow : an Erik Winter novel
Sun and shadow : an Erik Winter novel
Call Number: M
Erik Winter is the youngest chief inspector in Sweden and is his own man: he wears expensive suits, cooks gourmet meals, and loves jazz. Sun and Shadow begins with a bloody double murder that might just have roots in the police department. As Winter closes in on the killer, the killer stalks the chief inspector's wife.

Book cover for Think of a number. Translated from the Danish by David Hohnen.
Think of a number. Translated from the Danish by David Hohnen.
Bodelsen, Anders, 1937-
Call Number: M
When a bored bank clerk correctly guesses that the bank is about to be robbed, he comes up with an ingenious plan to commit the perfect crime. He succeeds, but life afterwards quickly gets very messy because the only person who knows his secret is the robber, who comes out of jail with a detailed plan of vengeance.

Book cover for Until thy wrath be past
Until thy wrath be past
Larsson, Åsa, 1966-
Call Number: M

Rebecka Martinsson, the heroine of this Swedish author’s novels, is a tax attorney, as was Larsson herself, before she turned to writing. In this fourth book in the series, Rebecka has moved to her grandparents’ town in northern Sweden and works as a district prosecutor. When Wilma, a teenager, is found dead in an ice hole in a local river, the initial verdict is accidental drowning. Rebecka has a dream in which Wilma tells her she did not die in the river, and she convinces the local police to help her investigate. The case turns out to involve the town’s activities during World War II when Nazi business was welcomed by some elements in neutral Sweden, and certain locals got rich trucking supplies to the Eastern Front in nearby Finland.