What is it about the Scandinavian mystery writers?  Why are their books so dark and yet so compelling?  From Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series (which I love passionately) to Stieg Larsson’s Millennial series (more popularly known as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels), to Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer books, with a whole lot of other authors in similar veins in between, there’s a whole genre of Scandinavian mysteries, and they’re addictive in the extreme. Perhaps it’s something about the long winters and the long hours of night.  Perhaps it’s the writers’ reaction against the countries’ reputation as the best and happiest places on earth.

The latest entry in this category is Ragnar Jonasson’s Nightblind, a sequel to Snowblind, set in a small town in Iceland which is so quiet and crime-free that nobody locks their doors. Their local police officer, Ari Thor Arason, protagonist of the previous book and a fairly recent arrival from the Big City, Reykjavik,  has an uneasy relationship with the local people.  Then his superior officer is shot, at point blank range, in a deserted house. If Ari hadn’t called in sick that night, he realizes he might have been the victim, which adds a note of urgency to his efforts to solve the crime, as the long arctic night begins to close in. The whole country is shocked at the murder (Iceland’s annual murder rate is in the single digits), especially of a police officer, which puts more pressure on Ari and his new supervisor, sent from the city, to solve the case as soon as possible. But this is going to be more complicated than they imagined, involving dark hidden secrets and a long buried past, local political corruption, a compromised new mayor of the town, and someone who’s being held in a psychiatric hospital in Reykjavik for reasons we don’t learn until fairly late in the book.  The claustrophobic nature of a murder in a small town where everybody knows everybody else and everybody’s hiding something is increased by the bitter Icelandic winter, closing in on everyone and forcing people to stay where they are.

If you’re a fan of good Scandinavian mysteries, or if you just like a good solid mystery where the clues are revealed slowly amid red herrings and dark hints about the way the past casts its shadows on the present, then you should definitely pick up Nightblind.  



So this winter has, so far, been a little less arctic than some previous ones.  So we’ve had some extraordinarily warm days that feel like May rather than February.  If you’re missing the cold and snow and ice and want to spend some time experiencing the bitter dangers of winter (without having to shovel snow or slip on ice), then we have a couple of new mysteries at the Field which should be just what the doctor ordered.


Ragnar Jonasson’s debut mystery*, Snowblind, takes place in a tiny fishing village in northern Iceland, accessible to the mainland only through a tunnel, where young police officer Ari Thor Arason is posted for the first time.  Ari is leaving his girlfriend behind in the city of Reykjavik, but he’s not able to leave behind all of his past, which will come back to haunt him in this seemingly peaceful little town where nobody even locks their doors.  Clearly the town isn’t as innocent and idyllic as it seems, because Ari first finds a woman lying unconscious and bleeding, half naked, in the snow, and shortly thereafter an esteemed local writer falls to his death in the local theater. As an outsider, Ari has no way of knowing who he should trust and it becomes clear to him that the village is full of secrets and lies, and winter is closing in, isolating Ari in this northern nightmare, where the past interferes with the present, and the claustrophobic tension mounts steadily.


For another example of Icelandic noir, try The Undesired, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir.  Back in the 1970’s, a woman named Aldis was working at a juvenile detention center in rural Iceland, a job she hated.  Between the boys being difficult, the unpleasant owners of the facility and the strange noises she kept hearing at night, she was pretty fed up with her job.  And then two of the boys disappeared, never to be found again.  Decades later, Odinn, a single father, is investigating reports of abuse at that same center, and he starts discovering unsettling things about the events of the 1970’s, strange as they were, and he begins to wonder whether there’s a connection between Aldis and her experiences at the center and the death of Odinn’s ex-wife in what was supposed to be an accident, but which might have been something far more sinister.


While neither of these books is likely to be endorsed by the Tourism Board of Iceland, if you’re in the mood for cold and creepy and dangerous, give our new Icelandic mysteries a try.


*Yes, this qualifies for the debut novel category for the 2017 Reading Challenge, in case you’re working on that.


Among the plethora of new books here at the Field Library this month, we have some really exciting new mysteries, standalones and parts of continuing series.

murder of mary russell cover

If you’re a fan of Laurie King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, the title of the latest book, The Murder of Mary Russell, is liable to horrify you.  Could it possibly be that Mary, the late in life spouse of Sherlock Holmes, could be dead and the series over?   When Mary goes missing and Holmes discovers the carpet at 221B Baker Street soaked through with blood, the obvious and deeply disturbing conclusion to draw is that Mary has met with foul play, possibly the worst kind of foul play.  Of course Holmes has to investigate, and one of the delights of this book is that King gives a starring role to the famous Mrs. Hudson, Holmes’ long time and long suffering housekeeper, giving her a back story of her own.  Fans of the series need no further introduction from me, and while this isn’t the book to start with if you’re just being introduced to these characters, if you’ve read a few in the series, you’re definitely going to want to find out if Laurie King followed in the footsteps of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and killed off her most popular character.

the father cover

A deeply disturbing and enthralling mystery based on a true story, The Father by Anton Svensson, takes us to Sweden and looks at an extraordinary family of criminals: three brothers, all under the age of 24, with no previous criminal records of any kind, who committed ten bank robberies in two years, confounding the police and riveting the attention of the public.  What warped three innocent boys into master criminals?  Who made them what they became?  The answer, as it turns out, is their father, an appalling character in his own right.  If you’re a fan of Scandinavian mysteries (Jo Nesbo, Stieg Larsson and the like), this should be right up your alley.

poisonous cover

In her newest book, Poisonous, Allison Brennan’s investigative reporter, Max Revere, looks into the death of someone most people didn’t mourn.  Ivy Lake was a nasty teenager, an internet bully, and she fell off a cliff a year before the beginning of this book. Maybe she jumped, maybe she was pushed, maybe it was just an accident.  The only person who grieves over her death is her mentally challenged stepbrother, who can’t understand what happened and whose letter to Max touches her heart enough to make her take on a case she wouldn’t usually touch with a ten foot pole. As she begins to investigate the cold case, Max comes to realize that if this was murder, the killer was and is extraordinarily clever and careful, and could be hiding in plain sight, waiting for the next victim.

close your eyes

Joe O’Laughlin, clinical psychologist, wasn’t planning to get involved in the murder case in Michael Robotham’s Close Your Eyes, but when a former student of his trades on his name and reputation and screws up the investigation, Joe feels compelled to help solve the case.  Two women are murdered in a remote farmhouse, one stabbed multiple times, one posed like Sleeping Beauty awaiting her prince.  As if this weren’t macabre enough by itself, Joe finds links between these killings and a series of attacks in which the victims were choked unconscious and the letter A carved into their foreheads. Joe is drawn deeper and deeper into these cases, matching wits with a merciless killer, and Joe himself may be in danger.

If you’re looking for exciting reads, dark and dangerous, set in the modern day or Victorian era, in California or the wilds of Sweden, come to the Field and check out our newest thrillers and mysteries.