Posts Tagged ‘Yrsa Sigurdardottir’

Summer often means reading lighter, just-for-fun, books.  This does not mean you need to pick a book that insults your intelligence with sloppy writing or poorly plotted themes.  However, it does often mean thrillers.  And now that we have a “go-to” author for four of the five Scandinavian countries, we thought we would devote a post just to this genre.  Yes – we say genre – one with dark winters and brief, sun-filled summers, problems with immigration, and bad guys who are usually people everyone knows because the population of the respective country is just too small not to.  The buzz may have started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it is now so much more.  So today, a day just barely past the summer solstice, we toast these gorgeous countries of the midnight sun with a salute to some of their literature.


The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen (2012) – Mr. Adler-Olsen has created a series based around a group of detectives – headed by Detective Carl Morck –  in Copenhagen’s Department Q.  Dept. Q resolves unsolved cases, and as detectives in novels tend to do, Q runs into resistance from other departments, and from the Danes they investigate.  In this installment, the group looks into the unsolved murder of a young brother and sister from decades ago. In the process, they gain insight from a trivial pursuit game, pursue Denmark’s ruling elite and search for an elusive homeless woman who holds all the answers.  You, as the reader, learn about the Danish landscape and people, and can travel a bit through the northern tip of Europe.  FYI – The first book in this series, which we have not yet read is – The Keeper of Lost Causes.


OK, Finland is the country we are missing, and we decided to post today even without a Finnish selection.  However, we are still looking and would love any suggestions.


Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (2010)We were lucky 1) to be in Iceland and 2) to find Ms. Sigurdardottir’s books in the Reykjavik airport.  Turns out she is known as Iceland’s premiere mystery writer; yes, they have more than one.  In this installment, Thora, the heroine lawyer, is juggling her own kids, her son’s live-in girlfriend and their young son, and a client who, of course, is innocent of the crime he is accused of committing. He is also innocent of four similar unsolved murders buried in ash when one of Iceland’s volcanoes erupted and disrupted everything (including solving crimes). Or is he?


Any mystery by Jo Nesbo. Seriously, we enjoy spending time with Mr. Nesbo’s severely flawed inspector  – Harry Hole – in any of his novels. We also love living among the fjords and towns of Norway briefly for the duration of each book.  And since his first Inspector Harry Hole thriller – The Bat – is released in the USA in July, you can get started from the beginning if you have not yet discovered this author.


Although after the block buster movie, it seems like most people on this planet have already discovered Mr. Steig Larsson, we still like the books by the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  So if you haven’t yet started this riveting “good for a beach read or plane ride” trilogy, featuring Lisbeth Salander, one of the best known characters in literature, and her journalist friend Mikael Blomkvist, we suggest that you do.

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Iceland Episode (Click to Listen)

We spent a little time traveling to Iceland through literature.  Why?  Well J Lisa C was lucky enough to spend four days in September there.

The books we chose to take us there included two by Harold Laxness.  First, his nobel prize winning effort Independent People and a shorter novel The Fish Can Sing.

Both provide insight into Iceland’s remoteness and its culture. Independent People was originally published in 1946 and out of print for decades, this book is a huge, skaldic treat filled with satire, humor, pathos, cold weather and sheep. Gudbjartur Jonsson becomes Bjartur of Summerhouses when, after 18 years of service to the Bailiff of Myri, he is able to buy his own croft. Summerhouses is probably haunted and is certainly unprepossessing, but Bjartur is a stubborn, leathery old (whatever his age) coot, and he soon has his new bride and few head of sheep installed in a sod house. The Tale continues from there and tells of one man’s attempts for true independence.

The Fish Can Sing provides a poignant coming-of-age tale marked with a blend of light irony and dark humor. The orphan Alfgrimur has spent an idyllic childhood sheltered in the simple turf cottage of a generous and eccentric elderly couple. Alfgrimur dreams only of becoming a fisherman like his adoptive grandfather, until he meets Iceland’s biggest celebrity – opera singer Gardar Holm.

Laxness’s prose is gorgeous and the pictures he paints of Iceland are beautiful and moving.  We highly recommend his works, and are glad we found his novels.

We also both checked out Collections of the Icelandic Sagas which influence the tours of Iceland, Icelandic culture and literature all over the world.

On a “lighter” note, Lisa also read Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – a book she bought in the airport there and describes as a a thriller by an Icelandic version of  Janet Evanovich or PD James.  Last Rituals provides a mystery, insight into modern day Iceland and many references to the sagas and history of the island.

Some items to note from J Lisa’s trip:

The country is a large national park whose landscape has a bit of Scotland’s coast, Ireland’s green, Hawaii’s lava and Montana’s big sky feeling all wrapped in one location.

Crosswalk lights sport smiling and stern faces instead of a walking man or a flashing hand.

Icelanders actually wear Icelandic sweaters, they are not just for tourists.

The place inspires romance as evidenced by the young man Lisa sat next to on the plane. This man was moving that very day to be with a girlfriend he met on the very last evening of his Iceland vacation just 30 or so days before.

Sit back, relax and prepare to be seduced by the equally romantic music of Iceland. We close this episode with a song by the artist Ragenheiour Grondal (punctuation incorrect as we don’t know how to create Icelandic characters and symbols on our American keyboards!).

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