Scandinavian crime fiction – Swansea expert helps judge international competition

From Stieg Larsson’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to TV’s “The Killing”, Scandinavian crime has never been more popular. Now, a shortlist of six entries has been announced for an international competition for the best Scandinavian crime novel of the year, with a Swansea University expert as one of the judges.

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Kat Hall - Petronas teamDr Katharina Hall, associate professor in the Department of Languages, Translation and Communication, is an expert in international crime fiction.  As well as her academic research, she also runs a blog called Mrs Peabody Investigates. Featured in The Guardian and the BBC Radio 4 series Foreign Bodies, the Mrs Peabody blog has had over 250,000 hits from 150 countries. 

‌Dr Hall is one of the judges for the Petrona award, which was launched in memory of another well-known crime fiction blogger, Maxine Clarke, who died in December 2012.

Image:  The Petrona team after the shortlisting. Clockwise from back row left: Sarah Ward, Barry Forshaw, Karen Meek and Mrs Peabody/Kat Hall. 

The shortlist for the 2015 Petrona award is:

  • THE HUMMINGBIRD by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Arcadia Books; Finland)
  • THE HUNTING DOGS by Jørn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)
  • REYKJAVIK NIGHTS by Arnaldur Indriðason tr. Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker; Iceland)
  • THE HUMAN FLIES by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson (Mantle; Norway)
  • FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM by Leif G W Persson tr. Paul Norlen (Doubleday; Sweden)
  • THE SILENCE OF THE SEA by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)

Dr Katharina Hall said:

'The high number of outstanding submissions to this year’s Petrona Award shows that the Scandi Noir boom is still going strong. Our shortlisted novels from Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland draw on diverse crime genres - from police-procedurals and detective fiction to thrillers - but all are top-quality crime that successfully entertain readers while exploring complex social issues.'

Kat Hall - Petrona AwardsDr Hall also explained how her work helps extend the impact of her research beyond the boundaries of academia.

'The Mrs Peabody blog and my work as a judge for the competition both draw on my expertise in the subject as a researcher, so they are means for me to share my research with a wider audience.

Other bloggers and crime fiction fans are often extremely knowledgeable, so I also learn from them, which in turn helps inform my own research.  So it’s a two-way process of learning and enrichment, with benefits all round.'

The winning title will be announced at CrimeFest, held in Bristol 14-17 May 2015. The award will be presented by the Godmother of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall, co-author with Per Wahlöö of the influential ‘Martin Beck’ series.

Other judges for this year's competition are

Barry Forshaw – Writer and journalist specialising in crime fiction and film; author of four books covering Scandinavian crime fiction: Nordic Noir, Death in a Cold Climate, Euro Noir and the first biography of Stieg Larsson.

Sarah Ward – – Crime novelist, author of the forthcoming In Bitter Chill (Faber and Faber), and crime fiction blogger at Crimepieces.

The award is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia and published in the UK in the previous calendar year.

The winner of the 2014 Petrona Award was Leif G W Persson for LINDA, AS IN THE LINDA MURDER, translated by Neil Smith.

‌Judges' comments on the 2015 shortlist:

THE HUMMINGBIRD: Kati Hiekkapelto’s accomplished debut introduces young police investigator Anna Fekete, whose family fled to Finland during the Yugoslavian wars. Paired with an intolerant colleague, she must solve a complex set of murders and the suspicious disappearance of a young Kurdish girl. Engrossing and confidently written, THE HUMMINGBIRD is a police procedural that explores contemporary themes in a nuanced and thought-provoking way.

THE HUNTING DOGS: The third of the William Wisting series to appear in English sees Chief Inspector Wisting suspended from duty when evidence from an old murder case is found to have been falsified. Hounded by the media, Wisting must now work under cover to solve the case and clear his name, with the help of journalist daughter Line. Expertly constructed and beautifully written, this police procedural showcases the talents of one of the most accomplished authors of contemporary Nordic Noir.

REYKJAVIK NIGHTS: A prequel to the series featuring detective Erlendur Sveinsson, REYKJAVIK NIGHTS gives a snapshot of 1970s Iceland, with traditional culture making way for American influences. Young police officer Erlendur takes on the ‘cold’ case of a dead vagrant, identifying with a man’s traumatic past. Indriðason’s legions of fans will be delighted to see the gestation of the mature Erlendur; the novel is also the perfect starting point for new readers of the series.

THE HUMAN FLIES: Hans Olav Lahlum successfully uses elements from Golden Age detective stories to provide a 1960s locked-room mystery that avoids feeling like a pastiche of the genre. The writing is crisp and the story intricately plotted. With a small cast of suspects, the reader delights in following the investigations of Lahlum’s ambitious detective Kolbjørn Kristiansen, who relies on the intellectual rigour of infirm teenager Patricia Borchmann.

FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM: It’s 2007 and the chair of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Lars Martin Johansson, has reopened the investigation into the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme. But can he and his dedicated team really solve this baffling case? The final part of  Persson’s ‘The Story of a Crime’ trilogy presents the broadest national perspective using a variety of different techniques – from detailed, gritty police narrative to cool documentary perspective – to create a novel that is both idiosyncratic and highly compelling.

THE SILENCE OF THE SEA: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir has said ‘I really love making people’s flesh creep!’, and she is the supreme practitioner when it comes to drawing on the heritage of Icelandic literature, and channelling ancient folk tales and ghost stories into a vision of modern Icelandic society. In SILENCE OF THE SEA, an empty yacht crashes into Reykjavik’s harbour wall: its Icelandic crew and passengers have vanished. Thóra Gudmundsdóttir investigates this puzzling and deeply unsettling case, in a narrative that skilfully orchestrates fear and tension in the reader.