Scandinavian noir

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Scandinavian noir or Scandinavian crime fiction, also called Nordic noir, is a genre comprising crime fiction written in Scandinavia with certain common characteristics, typically in a realistic style with a dark, morally complex mood. According to one critic, "Nordic crime fiction carries a more respectable cachet... than similar genre fiction produced in Britain or the US".[1] Language, heroes and settings are three commonalities in the genre, which features plain, direct writing style without metaphor.[2]

The novels are often of the police procedural subgenre, focusing on the monotonous, day-to-day work of police, though not always involving the simultaneous investigation of several crimes.[3] Examples include The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels by Stieg Larsson,[4] and Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander detective series.[5]

Common features[edit]

Some critics attribute the genre's success to a distinctive and appealing style, "realistic, simple and precise…and stripped of unnecessary words".[2] Their protagonists are typically detectives worn down by cares and far from simply heroic.[2]

The works also owe something to Scandinavia's political system where the apparent equality, social justice, and liberalism of the Nordic model is seen to cover up dark secrets and hidden hatreds. Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, for example, deals with misogyny and rape, while Henning Mankell's Faceless Killers focuses on the failures of multiculturalism.[2][6]


Authors such as Henning Mankell, Mari Jungstedt, Kjell Eriksson, Kerstin Ekman, Håkan Nesser, Åke Edwardson, Helene Tursten, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Åsa Larsson, Liza Marklund, Stieg Larsson, Leif GW Persson, Camilla Läckberg, Robert Karjel, Karin Alvtegen (all Swedish), Pernille Rygg, Anne Holt, Karin Fossum, Jo Nesbø, Hans Olav Lahlum, Gunnar Staalesen (all Norwegian) and Jussi Adler-Olsen, Michael Larsen, Leif Davidsen and Peter Høeg (Danish) have contributed to the creation and establishment of the genre.


  1. ^ Forshaw, Barry (July 8, 2011). "New stars of Nordic noir: Norway's authors discuss their country's crime wave". The Independent. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Scandinavian crime fiction - Inspector Norse - Why are Nordic detective novels so successful?". The Economist . March 11, 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  3. ^ Miller, Laura (January 15, 2010). "The Strange Case of the Nordic Detectives". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "Nordic Noir: The Story of Scandinavian Crime Fiction". BBC. August 21, 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  5. ^ "Nordic Noir and the Welfare State". The New York Times. March 19, 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Marc Sidwell, "Sweden turns the page and Scandinavian noir explains why", City AM, August 28, 2012


  • Scandinavian Crime Fiction. Edited by Andrew Nestingen and Paula Arvas. University of Wales Press (2011).