After reading Swedish authors Steig Larsson, Camilla Lackberg and Asa Larssen and becoming addicted to Scandinavian crime mysteries, I came across rave reviews about Norweigan author Jo Nesbo and decided to try one of his most recent books that has been translated into English.

The Devil’s Star begins simply enough with a small trickle of water that streams down the wall of an Oslo apartment.  The Devil’s Star continues to take the reader on twists and turns to a unexpected and thrilling end with a myriad of victims courtesy of one serial killer.  Each victim has a telltale sign left at the scene – a five point diamond near each of their bodies.

Detective Harry Hole, who is still reeling from the murder of his former partner, struggles both with alcohol and his new partner (and nemesis) Tom Whaaler on this case.  Hole is convinced Whaaler has something to do with his partner’s death.  To complicate matters, Detective Hole also struggles with his on again off again girlfriend, Rakel – which makes for more drama in the Detective’s life.

If you enjoyed reading Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, give Jo Nesbo a try – his latest book to be translated into English, The Snowman, comes out in May.

Though the recent cold and snowy weather makes us all dream of warmer places, I still can’t stop reading more Scandinavian mysteries, where the cold climate plays a major role.   The Preacher is the second mystery novel by Swedish author Camilla Lackberg – if you have recently enjoyed other Scandinavian crime fiction you may want to add her to your list.  I blogged about her first novel, The Ice Princess, a few months ago and after I finished reading this book I couldn’t wait for the next book in the series to be translated into English.

In The Preacher, again we meet Erica and Patrik who are now expecting their first child.  As a detective in Fjallbacka, a tiny fishing village in southwest Sweden, Patrik has been thrown in to a new investigation – the murder of a young tourist from Germany.  With this new case, the 30 year old unsolved disappearance of  two young women is also thrust into the spotlight – the young tourist’s body is found with the remains of these two young women.

The case takes an unexpected turn when a young girl, Jenny Moeller whose appearance is nearly identical to the murdered tourist, is kidnapped and Patrik and his fellow detectives know that time is running out to try and save her.  With Jenny’s disappearance, clues come to light that  focus the investigation on a local and radical family, the Hult’s, whose public feud only complicates the case further.  The ending is completely unexpected and shocking – definitely well worth it!

The final installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, was released at the beginning of the summer to rave reviews along with a bit of sadness that this is the final book in the series due to Larsson’s death in 2004, shortly before this book was published.

The book begins immediately after the epic battle from the last pages of the previous book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, which leaves Lisbeth Salander recovering from her injuries hospitalized in critical condition.  Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has been teaming up with Salander throughout the series, is working tirelessly on her behalf and is determined to get to the bottom of the intricate web of corruption within the Swedish government which runs deep and rampant.  

Blomkvist’s detective work  – exposing those who are trying to send Salander to prison for life by framing her for a variety of crimes – is fascinating and intricately detailed.  The book ends in a thrilling wrap-up of all the carefully interlaced story lines throughout the books. The Milenium Trilogy books are some of the best I have read in quite awhile – I am tempted to go on at length about the book but don’t want to reveal too much to anyone who may pick up the trilogy in the future.  In addition to complex and interesting characters, Larsson gives a vivid account of modern day Sweden.

An international best-selling thriller, The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, transports us to present day Sweden where crime, corruption, and the little known world of human trafficking run rampant.  Lisbeth Salander, a smart, tattooed, self-sufficient computer hacker, is the focus of a criminal investigation centered on the murder of two journalists who are close to exposing the international sex trade business.  Mikael Blomkvist, a magazine publisher whose magazine was to eventually publish the expose, has a history of working with Salander and is intent on proving her innocence – if he can find her before the police do.  On the run from authorities, Salander’s alarming past is revealed and she is intent on revenge.

The twists and turns in this book will keep you wondering if she is innocent or guilty and, most importantly, what is the motive for these murders if she is the culprit?  Even though this book is the second in the Millennium series, it is easy to start with this book before reading the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  The final book in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, will be published later this spring. Sadly, Stieg Larsson died in 2004 while working on his fourth book.  This series will also hit the big screen with the first installment being released in 2010.  This is an exciting book that combines contemporary Scandinavian culture with the elements of a little-known underworld of betrayal, deceit, murder and corruption.

woman-with-birthmarkIf you liked the Inspector Wallender programs on PBS Masterpiece Mystery (the DVD is coming out next month!) immerse yourself in another Swedish police procedural.

Woman with Birthmark by Hakan Nesser stars an extremely cranky Chief Inspector Van Veeteren. This time he is placed in charge of an investigation into a series of homicides. Men are shot at close range above (and below) the belt. The reader knows who the killer is, but not the motivation. Nesser is a master at creating an atmosphere of tension and subtle dread. The violence and dialogue is never overstated and is all the more effective for that.

Both Henning Mankell (author of the Kurt Wallender mysteries) and Nesser illustrate why the mysteries of Sweden, Iceland, and Norway are so popular right now.