We’re currently enjoying a Scandinavian thrillerfest of books, movies and TV. Our senses are being bombarded by the sights and sounds of Sweden and Norway courtesy of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy Henning Mankell’s Wallander, and Jo Nesbø’s detective Harry Hole. By gum, they’re good.
Larsson’s wrote his three politically-charged thrillers, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, delivered them to his publisher then promptly popped his clogs, not a victim of some sinister conspiracy, more to do with the journalistic lifestyle of cigarettes, too much coffee and booze and not enough exercise. The books are real page-turners, the main characters are middle-aged investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant, but troubled 24-year-old bi-sexual computer hacker with a penchant for punk. The books were filmed in Swedish with subtitles, and all the better for it, without any of the Hollywood treatment, nice and gritty. Plus we got to improve our Swedish language skills. ‘Tack’ means ‘thank you’ and ‘nasty shit’ means, well, ‘nasty shit’.
Mankell tells a good, if convoluted story, Wallander could be Sweden’s Inspector Morse, cultured, clever, argumentative and a loner. Personally I think Wallander’s better. On TV the original Swedish series is completely overshadowed by the British re-make starring Kenneth Brannagh who is fantastic as the flawed, depressed Wallander who can’t find happiness but can solve crimes. The cinematography is bleak, but magnificent, I can’t remember the last time I saw anything as visually stunning on TV, but it’s not a laugh a minute, actually a smile in an hour is hard to achieve. No wonder Brannagh confessed he needed to return home if possible during filming, heavy stuff.
Nesbø, a Norwegian and, like Larsson and Mankell, a former journalist, is the best of the lot. If you haven’t read The Redbreast yet, drop everything, go out and buy it now, you’ll not put it down, I promise. His Insp Harry Hole is deeply troubled and alcoholic, but he’s brilliant and, my word, you want him to come round and make a go of it with the woman he loves. His last book, The Snowman, is hopefully going to be filmed through Working Title, with Nesbø as adviser. I’d like to suggest Paul Bettany for the part of Harry, please.
It’s not fair to draw conclusions on Scandinavian literature from a small sample of three authors, prolific though they may be, but I’m going to do just that and see what happens. I’ll start with the caveat of saying my conclusions are based on contemporary crime writers and cinematographers. They are:
– Slow-paced writing styles show a penchant for detailed descriptions (like)
– There’s a lot of snow in Scandinavia (double like)
– Female characters are strong and bold (triple like)
– A lot of coffee is drunk, some of it may even be good (like)
– Male leads are alcoholics (dislike)
– Everyone is blue-eyed and fair-haired (like, well the description matches my other half!)
But wait, Noomi Rapace, who plays Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium trilogy is dark-haired and brown-eyed, so the final point can’t be true – unless you believe the movie posters.