From Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to the gritty works of Peter Høeg and Henning Mankell, it’s clear that Scandinavian noir fiction isn’t going anywhere soon. People love to read it.
The Roots of Scandinavian Noir Fiction
Peter Høeg’s 1992 book, “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” is widely seen as the start of international attention for Scandinavian noir.
Swedish author Henning Mankell then introduced Wallander, the star of a series of detective books that drew even more interest to the genre.
From there, various Scandinavian authors launched careers with noir fiction, with Larrson’s “Millenium” series reaching a fever pitch. That has firmly entrenched Scandinavian works into international book readership.
Why Scandinavian Noir Fiction Is Hot
Noir fiction is popular in any setting but Scandinavian stories are perhaps more appealing thanks to the dark and brooding setting.
While not all Scandinavian regions are as mysterious as they might seem in noir fiction, there are aspects that add the appropriate dark or bleak atmosphere. Think stormy shores, stony buildings, bare rock flats, and limestone mountains. It’s easy to see how noir fiction and this type of environment work well together.
Ice, frost, and snow add to the atmosphere of these novels, especially in Høeg’s “Smilla’s Sense of Snow.” Winter weather is practically its own plot point and sometimes a villain in this genre.
Scandinavian noir may also be popular right now because Scandinavian authors don’t shy away from serious matters and strong writing. This isn’t fluffy fiction. If you look at some of the major works from the area in recent times, subject matter covers societal problems, injustices, and issues, all written with attention to detail and captivating characters and plot points.
Calling attention to racism, misogyny, poverty, and corruption are just as important to the novels as the “whodunnit” element and character development. In Sweden, Larsson’s first book title can be translated as “Men Who Hate Women.”
Noir fiction is thrilling to read and to write. Whether it’s set in Scandinavian cities or elsewhere, noir offers an opportunity to write the roles of victim, criminal, or detective, digging into the motivations and characterization of some of society’s best and worst people.
If you love stories of passion and crime, you might try your hand at writing in this genre yourself.