That splendid blogger, and great crime fan (and nowadays, crime writer) Dorte H is someone whose fair and thoughtful observations about the genre are always well worth studying. She was one of a number of bloggers I met in person, along with her husband (at a pub quiz!) for the first time last year, and now she's kindly agreed to contribute to this blog a study of the Danish crime scene. I found it fascinating and I am sure other readers will agree.
"When I was young, so little happened on the Danish scene of crime that we had to turn to either America for hardboiled thrillers or Britain for police procedurals (to generalize a tad....)
In the late 1990s, a few things began to happen, though. Inspired by our Swedish and Norwegian neighbours, the ´femikrimi trend´ hit Denmark. Actually there were two trends by the same name; first the serious trend where former journalists wrote crime fiction with a strong, feminist message. The Danish writer Elsebeth Egholm carved a name for herself in Denmark in the same way as Liza Marklund did in Sweden with their independent, female journalists who wouldn´t take no for an answer when they were on a mission. Another Danish writer of this category is Gretelise Holm whose sixtyish protagonist is a free and active spirit, also sexually. A mature woman who puts up a fight when male bosses and colleagues try to keep her down.
The other femikrimi trend is not as common in Denmark but represented by well-known Swedish writers such as Camilla Läckberg and Mari Jungstedt. Some Scandinavian reviewers have dubbed their books chicklit with crime or lipstick literature, and instead of the anger and injustice which colour some of the feminist books, they deal with the female characters´down-to-earth struggles with love and family life. The only Danish writer who springs to my mind is Sanne Udsen.
Finally, a pre-millenium writer who is difficult to pin down but deserves a paragraph. And how to introduce Susanne Staun? Readers of my blog will know she has been one of my favourites ever since I read the first Fanny Fiske mystery. Staun did not only chose an old, female protagonist. She let her go through so much plastic surgery that her surgeon had to remind her of Michal Jackson! Nevertheless this tough and sturdy profiler is never short of young flesh (do you smell a crime fiction cliché turned upside-down here?) The books are well-written, terribly exciting and full of pitchblack humour.
Unfortunately the global recession also hit the publishing business in Denmark a few years ago. Traditional publishers are very unwilling to take chances with new writers, and just like the rest of the world, they have been busy looking for the next Stieg Larsson.
So for a couple of years we have seen a boom of fastpaced thrillers (but without any Lisbeth Salanders to make them stand out). For a Swedish example of these Larsson lights, I could mention Lars Kepler´s The Hypnotist, but I believe the Danish debut Svinehunde (which means pigs or bastards) by Lotte and Søren Hammer is also on its way in English. What they have in common is lots of action. The Hypnotist begins with the truly horrible slaughtering of a family, Svinehunde with five bodies swinging from the ceiling of a gymnasium. At least Svinehunde offers some kind of moral message though not quite successfully. Well, it seems that Scandinavian readers want these less than credible orgies in violence, but the reviews are mixed...
Finally the really good news (if you ask me). After some meagre decades when we secretly envied the Swedish writers who achieved worldwide fame, three of our very best series are on their way to a wider audience. One of them is Elsebeth Egholm´s Next of Kin, her fourth Dicte Svendsen mystery (see above) which was published in Australia last year.
Jussi Adler-Olsen´s first police procedural about Carl Mørck was published in Britain last spring, and I have enjoyed reading a handfuld of enthusiastic, English reviews of this excellent series. I have read four volumes now and believe me, they grow better and better. Mørck is a somewhat reluctant police officer, but he is spurred on by his unorthodox sidekick, the immigrant Assad. Dark, exciting and with some comic relief.
Furthermore, a great series written by two female writers, Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, has been snatched by the American publisher Soho, also in the past year. They have both written children´s fiction before, but the series about Red Cross nurse Nina Borg is their first thriller. You could say that this series has a bit of it all. At first I feared Nina Borg would be too bland and idealistic, but as the plot develops, we realize that she is nicely flawed. When I reviewed the first one, I stated that it was the best Danish thriller I had ever read. So perhaps this book is closer to Stieg Larsson´s series than any of the others: a drama that keeps you on the edge of your chair, but also a female protagonist you cannot get enough of.
What these series have in common are that even though they are exciting, the writers put character development & detection above sheer action, and they all offer interesting settings.
Available in English:
Elsebeth Egholm, Next of Kin (Australia)
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Mercy (Britain)
Kaaberbøl & Friis, The Boy in the Suitcase (the USA)"
Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen is a Danish blogger and writer of crime fiction. Her debut novel, the humorous mystery "The Cosy Knave" was published in August this year, and her latest publication is an anthology of funny Christmas crime stories, "Christmas in Knavesborough". They take place in the same fictional Yorkshire village but can be read separately.