The Mind’s Eye: a great start but slow progress

Van Veeteren is among the most famous of Swedish fictional detectives, but this was my first written encounter with the character. This book started off brilliantly with a mystifying mystery of the locked room tradition: a drowned wife in a locked bathroom, the husband so inebriated he could only remember their wild festivity of the…

The Darkness: deceptively simple

If Ragnar Jónasson was a painter, he’d be a meticulous minimalist, quietly capturing the essence of commonplace events in a low-key life – and then revealing a dazzling, broad canvas which weeps with compassion for the human condition. The Darkness, a standalone investigation set in Iceland, may easily be his best work yet translated into…

Krigen: an unwinnable war

This sombre, typically Scandinavian drama explores the reality of modern conflict from an intensely personal perspective. It starts as a ‘war is hell’ movie and ends as a courtroom drama, debating the moral dimension of military action. The protagonist is forced to make a choice in the heat of battle, and must then accept responsibility…

Zen And The Art Of Murder: a bleak mid-winter

The cover art of this book perfectly captures its sensibilities: a lone individual, trudging in an endless, featureless expanse – seemingly aimless, isolated and disoriented. ‘Zen’ shares much with the stranger side of Scandinavian crime fiction: that slippery sensation of disconnectedness; an understanding that important things are happening but they seem to be just out…

Last Train To Helsingør: spooky Scandi stories

Deliciously delicate, these Danish short stories meander along the sinister side of twilight, weaving dark descriptions of despair, duplicity and justly-deserved retribution. The 19 haunting and subtle stories in this anthology come from author Heidi Amsinck who, although born in Copenhagen, writes fluidly and artfully in English. This makes her writing refreshingly accessible for an international…

London Rules: more horseplay

As with his previous ‘Slough House’ spook stories, Mick Herron launches London Rules with a simply gob-smacking opening chapter. You think you understand exactly what’s happening – just another terrorist atrocity among the daily diet of disaster – and then he pulls the rug right out from under with a single didn’t-see-that-coming sentence. It’s absurdly…