Iceland is a small country with very low crime rates, but a surprisingly large number of top quality crime fiction writers.
For the moment the best Nordic Noir books are written in Iceland, that seems to bring out one outstanding crime writer after another. Maybe it is a result of their long and rich storytelling tradition mixed with the fascinating and unique landscape? Dark and snowy winters or sunny summer nights, desolate fjords or vast lava fields – not to forget the ever-present threats of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. What more could you want for a suitable crime fiction backdrop? Here are some suggestions for you TBR list – from the long-established to the newbies:
The Girl Who Died
Creepy psychological thriller with a touch of ghost story, set in the remote and isolated village of Skálar, home of only ten people, most of them reserved and unfriendly. Step by step it becomes obvious that there is something wrong in the village and that it has a dark, haunted history, carefully guarded by its inhabitants.
This is the first standalone novel by Ragnar Jónasson and a departure from the superb police procedural series that made him famous – the Dark Iceland series, featuring police officer Ari Thór Arason in Siglufjorður, and the Hidden Iceland series, an inventive crime trilogy following police officer Hulda Hermannsdóttir in Reykjavík.
The Creak on the Stairs
When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, the police investigators make a series of discoveries of long-hidden crimes that may shake the entire community. A slow-burning, tense and thought-provoking crime fiction story unfolded along two different timelines, the present and the past.
The novel is mainly set in Akranes, the town where the young author Eva Björg Ægisdóttir was born and grew up, and you really sense the small town atmosphere where everybody knows a little bit about each other’s business, but still people tend to look away when something unpleasant happens.
A story of violence, masculine entitlement and revenge, that begins on a jagged, bleak lava field just outside Reykjavík, where a man is found hanging from Gálgaklettur or the Gallows Rock. The novel can be read on its own, but it is the fourth installment in the Children´s House series, a heart-breaking series about childhood traumas, that truly tend to get under your skin.
The author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is a master in intertwining different story lines and her crime solving team is an odd but lovable duo – police officer Huldar and child psychologist Freyja. They come from completely different backgrounds, but have a certain chemistry between them.
An intriguing and deeply moving story about a promising young soprano with the voice of an angel, whose fate turned on a dime and resulted in tragedy. This is not the first installment, but still a good starting point for the Inspector Erlendur series by the nestor Arnaldur Indriðason , who was the first Icelandic crime fiction author to be internationally acknowledged.
Erlendur is a brilliant cop but suffering from private tragedies, and Indriðason regularly mixes scenes from Erlendur´s personal life with the criminal aspects of the stories. The books are mostly set in Reykjavík and provide many insights into Icelandic society and culture.
The investigation of a woman’s suicide at the Hólmsheiði prison outside Reykjavík leads back to a series of brutal crimes committed twenty years before, and the links between past and present are interwoven in an intricate way. The novel tells the story of keeping up public appearances no matter what the cost and raises the question of how far a family is willing to go to protect dangerous secrets.
This is the second novel in the Ice and Crime series by Icelandic new voice Sólveig Pálsdóttir. Each book being independent, but with the same main character – police officer Guðgeir Fransson, a determined and rational investigator but also a warm and compassionate human being.
A modern, fast-paced psychological thriller about the dark side of politics. The title is perfect, since it is an exploration into different kinds of betrayal, from the global to the very personal, and the story manifests how small betrayals easily become large ones.
The author Lilja Sigurðardóttir became internationally recognized through her innovative and original Reykjavik Noir trilogy and now she is back with this standalone set in today´s Reykjavík and dealing with contemporary issues like corruption, misogyny, absent fathers, alcoholism, homelessness – and even the pros and cons of apps like Tinder.
If you prefer watching instead of reading the Icelandic television drama Trapped is a chilling and captivating thriller, perfect for hot summer evenings. The first season is set against a dramatic and snowy backdrop and has a great plot with many different threads to follow.