Friday, January 23, 2009

Maybe it's the weather

While some of Scandinavia's literary elite looked down on Høeg and Mankell abandoning serious fiction in favour of something unashamedly mass market, there's little argument that they set the standard for what followed. Their books may have been populist but they were never pulp, and the quality of writing in Scandinavian crime fiction has remained, in general, a notch or two higher than elsewhere.

But no one buys a thriller for the writing alone: the Scandinavians have consistently come up with great plotlines that are as cold and bleak as the locations in which they are set. It's this sense of the other that sets them apart. Crime writers can come up with any number of serial killers and paedophiles with ever sicker twists, but as long as they are situated in LA, New York, London and Edinburgh there will inevitably be a sense of familiarity. The Scandinavian locations dislocate British readers and help take them beyond plot and genre to the human condition.

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