Dark chilly nights, autumn leaves swirling in the wind and carved pumpkins with empty eyes staring at you from every doorstep. Halloween must be the perfect time for reading creepy crime fiction novels. Especially this year when many of our usual pleasures are restricted and we are more or less confined to our homes.
Why not make a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine, and snuggle on the sofa with a book that will make you forget everything about pandemics and lockdowns. Here are some of my favourites, immersive and exciting crime fiction books, spiced with an extra touch of mystique or horror:
I Remember You / Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
The Icelandic “Queen of Crime fiction” Yrsa Sigurðardóttir often adds a whiff of something supernatural or ghostly in her stories. In the novel I Remember You, a group of friends travel to a remote Icelandic town to renovate a derelict house and turn it into a guest house for the tourist season. But something in the house doesn’t want them to be there.
Meanwhile, in the town across the fjord, a young doctor investigating the suicide of an elderly woman discovers that she was obsessed with his vanished son. Eventually the two stories collide and a terrifying truth is uncovered . . .
Or if you prefer, there is also a really good Icelandic film adaptation of this book.
Mist / Ragnar Jónasson
In an isolated farm house in the eastern part of Iceland, the couple Erla and Einar are preparing for Christmas. A blizzard sweeps across the countryside and no one is expected to be outside, but suddenly there is a knock on the door. It’s a stranger, desperate for shelter. They take him in – but they’ll wish they hadn’t. Because this man is not who he says he is. And, when the power cuts out, it’s the beginning of a terrifying nightmare . . .
Mist is the third installment in the Hidden Iceland series, but since the series is written in backwards chronological order, it can well be read as a standalone.
The Snowman / Jo Nesbø
Snow plays an important role in The Snowman by Norwegian crime fiction author Jo Nesbø. One night, after the first snowfall of the year, a young boy wakes up and discovers that his mother has disappeared. Outside, he sees her favourite scarf – wrapped around the neck of a snowman.
Eventually a pattern emerges: over the past decade, eleven women have vanished – all on the day of the first snow.
The Snowman is a complex, exciting story with many twists and turns. It is a part of Nesbø´s world famous series starring Inspector Harry Hole, but it is one of the best in the series and can well be read as a standalone. And if you get completely hooked by Harry Hole (like so many others) there are eleven more books to dive into…
I Will Miss You Tomorrow / Heine Bakkeid
Deep fjords and windswept mountains – and an abandoned lighthouse on a remote island somewhere in the archipelago of Troms in northern Norway. The setting couldn´t be more “Nordic Noirish” than in this dark novel set in a small and quiet community hiding dangerous secrets.
In a way it is a classic detective story, but Bakkeid has a sense for the gothic and freely spices up his narrative with elements of horror and supernatural phenomenons. Thorkild soon finds himself deep in treacherous waters…
The Darkest Room / Johan Theorin
There must be something special about old abandoned lighthouses, that makes them the perfect setting for crime scenes. Not only one but two lighthouses play an important role in the novel The Darkest Room by Swedish crime fiction author Johan Theorin. The story is set on the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea – a sunny and crowded place in the summer, but desolate, windy and unsettling in the winter.
A young couple from Stockholm, Katrine and Joakim, and their two children move into an old lighthouse-keeper´s manor house at Eel Point on Öland. The house was built long ago by timber from a shipwreck and is said to be haunted. Before long Kathrine is found drowned close to the house. It looks like an accident, but the young policewoman Tilda Davidsson is not convinced…
Eighteen Below / Stefan Ahnhem
Stefan Ahnhem started his career as a scriptwriter and all his crime fiction books are wonderfully cinematic and action-packed. The novel Eighteen Below has absolutely no supernatural vibes, but it is a ghastly and violent story set in the idyllic town of Helsingborg, where a wave of brutal homicides pressures the police.
A car speeds through the streets of Helsingborg and when it reaches the harbour, the driver keeps going, straight into the sea. But it is not a suicide, because the autopsy reveals that the man in the car was murdered two months ago, and his body has been deep frozen. Inspector Fabian Risk and his Danish colleague Dunja Hougaard have to dig into a terrifying story of stolen identity and serial murder.
Stefan Ahnhem has written five novels starring Inspector Fabian Risk in Helsingborg, but this one may be read as a standalone. And if you like it, there are four more…
The Chestnut Man / Søren Sveistrup
If you have watched the successful Danish TV series The Killing, created and scripted by Søren Sveistrup, you may anticipate what to expect from his debut novel The Chestnut Man. It is a violent and grisly but brilliant book, packed with suspense and action.
It is set in a a dark and gloomy autumn/winter Copenhagen, where a woman is found dead with one hand cut off. Above her hangs a small doll made of chestnuts.
Young detective Naia Thulin and burned-out investigator Mark Hess are assigned the case, but they soon discover that another woman has been brutally murdered. This time both her hands have been cut off. And there is another chestnut figure…