Quite why Scandinavia has become a world center for crime fiction is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a mystery.
The region has some of the lowest crime rates in Europe and on of the face of it some of the world’s most liberal and socially cohesive societies. Hardly fertile ground for crime fiction
The very idea of the gritty streets of Copenhagen or murky underworld of Gothenburg is almost laughable. What are the stories about we might wonder? Herring smuggling? A reindeer massacre?
Well park your cynicism. Having read a few, I think the secret of the Scandinavian success in the genre is very much to do with their commitment to liberal ideals.
Whereas American crime writers like Raymond Chandler and James Elroy expose corruption in their novels, they also tacitly accept it as the way life is. One might also say they revel in the sleazy streets their characters inhabit.
In Scando crime novels by the likes of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larrson, the reverse is true. The detectives or protagonists of these novels are fighting dark forces that threaten the creation of a fairer society. Often the villains are fascists, racists or exploiters of women.
There’s no way they can accept what they find as just ‘life’ and leave it at that. They must question how and why these evils exists, along the way to destroying them.
It’s this committed, explicitly political viewpoint that gives a fresh angle to the genre.