My Swedish challenge leaves me cold

I am one of only 6 people in the world who doesn’t adore The girl with the dragon tattoo.

I wanted to find out why there is  all this fuss about  Stieg Larsson  – what makes him so compelling?  The appeal of mysteries has always been a mystery to me – the closest I’ve come is  Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody series and the wonderful Secret History. So I made  Swedish mystery my 5 book challenge with a small deviation to Swedish fiction.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is  a clunky mix of corporate politics, sexual violence, neo-Nazis,  IT and curiously old  fashioned Biblical blood and gore.  Even the relationship between the computer savy and deeply disturbed Goth, Lisbeth, and the gruff, man-alone Blomkvist doesn’t warm me.

I suppose it is all about plot and that compelling quest for whodunnit but I really don’t care because there was no character development of the culprit.  Perhaps I’m too faint hearted for all that gruesome sexual violence but it doesn’t make it any better that it is Larsson’s way of exposing misogyny. The revenge is just as repulsive and voyeuristic.   I have no desire to read the other two.

Henning Mankell is the other doyen of Swedish fiction so I dipped my icy toes into Italian shoes though I cheated a bit as it is not strictly Mystery.  Unlike, Larsson he can write – I liked this well crafted book.  It is also disturbing and mysterious but  so much more. The taciturn and flawed Welin has a dark past  which comes back to haunt him.  The women are strong, the landscape white –  you can feel that strong sense of place.  I was chilled to the bone as  Welin breaks the ice to take his daily swim of penance in the frozen sea of his archipelago but at at least there seemed to be blood flowing in his veins.

I’m reading more Mankell and  Shadow by Karin Alvtegen and look forward to the winner of the CWA’s International Dagger Award,  Swede Johan Theorin with his book Darkest Room.   I seem to be avoiding frost bite so far.

If you are already up for the Swedish challenge, explore some more authors from our  If you like Scandanavian crime booklist.

2 thoughts on “My Swedish challenge leaves me cold

  1. Michael A 3 September 2010 / 12:50 pm

    I love TGWTDT but agree that Mankell is 10 x the writer that Larsson is, although by book 3 he is showing better structure and less reliance on the obvious. Of course Larsson was at the beginning of his novel writing career and Mankell has a long list of books under his belt. If you enjoy Mankell, the Wallander TV series staring Kenneth Brannagh in the role of Kurt is very, very good (why on earth it isn’t “Sunday Theatre” instead of the ghastly Criminal Minds I’ll never know) but the books are very much better and the TV series is not chronological so can be a bit confusing in the back story.

  2. cloudy5 16 November 2010 / 4:50 pm

    I love the Kate Atkinson ‘Jackson’ series although the last one left me rather unmoved (love the title though: ‘Stated early, took my dog’)…a bit like the last Harry Potter movie, just filling in time until the important stuff happens.
    Have a go at Patricia Duncker’s ‘The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge’. Having read a couple of her books, I spotted the bleak whiteness of snow on the cover and was mesmerised by the skill of her writing. (This novel is (chillingly) based on a true story. Haven’t tried Larsson, don’t really want to.
    For light but witty female crime, try Kerry Greenwood.

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