Celebrating 10 years of the “original” Nordic Noir Book Club in London

This month it is 10 years ago that the “original” Nordic Noir Book Club was founded in London. The exact day in March 2010 has disappeared in the fog of a Nordic mystery, but we have chosen the 23rd of March 2020 (also known as Nordic Day) for our anniversary. We had planned to celebrate the day with an event at University College London – the home of the book club for all these years; however, due to the pandemic, we have had to cancel the celebration, which was planned to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the UCL Department of Scandinavian Studies. NN_square

Instead of a live celebration, we have put together a short history of the book club here, and in a couple of weeks, the Department will be publishing our brand new Introduction to Nordic Cultures (UCL Press), which we hope will be both entertaining and inspiring to all of our members and other fans of Nordic cultures and crime fiction. From the 17th of April 2020 you can read the open-access book here.

It is hard to imagine a time when Scandinavian crime fiction was still a novelty. In 2010 when we first had the idea for the Book Club, the third volume in Stieg Larsson’s global bestseller trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, had been published only five months previously in its UK English translation (in October 2009), the second season of the British adaptation of Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels featuring Kenneth Branagh had entered its second season on BBC ONE in January 2010, and it would be almost a year until the Danish drama series Forbrydelsen (The Killing) would initiate a Golden Age of translated television drama on BBC FOUR.

However, with Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy going on to sell more than 80 million copies world-wide, the final “original” instalment becoming the number one bestseller in the US in 2010, and Branagh’s version of  Wallander on television, achieving viewer numbers above 5 million in the UK alone, it was becoming evident that Swedish and Scandinavian crime fiction was finding audiences well beyond the Scandinavian region, and that readers and viewers were beginning to wonder: what is it about these famously well-ordered, peaceful and perhaps slightly boring welfare-nanny-states on the other side of the North Sea, which seem to have nurtured an abundance of violent crime stories? And why do they fascinate a global audience?

The founding of the Nordic Noir Book Club in London, as a forum for readers and viewers to come together and share their thoughts and passions for Scandinavian crime fiction and Nordic cultures, was also meant to enhance our common experience of Nordic crime literature and television by providing relevant background information and facilitating discussion about Scandinavian cultures and society – engagements that did help us all make some sense of the puzzle: Why are there still so many (good) crime stories coming out of the Nordic countries?

Thanks and congratulations to all of our members, participants, crime writers, directors, organisers, friends and students who have made this “original” Nordic Noir Book Club a great and friendly place to explore Nordic Cultures over the past decade. Please leave a comment if you have any momentous memories of the NNBC to share.

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Meet Jørn Lier Horst (Profile)

If you are following the Nordic Noir series Wisting on BBC 4, you might be interested to learn more about the Norwegian crime writer who wrote the books on which the series is based.

The Nordic Noir Book Club in London met the Norwegian Chief Inspector who turned to crime writing on 22. May 2017.


Jørn Lier Horst

Jørn Lier Horst is one of the most popular crime writers in Scandinavia. In his native Norway, he sells about 1,000 books a day. He has won the most prestigious awards including the Riverton Prize for the best Norwegian crime novel, The Glass Key and The Martin Beck Award for The Hunting Dogs. Like his compatriot, Jo Nesbø, Lier Horst enjoys international success with his William Wisting series – translated for publication in 25 countries from Japan to Portugal. In the UK, where Sandstone Press has published six of his novels, his seat in the Valhalla of Nordic Noir was cemented with the 2016 Petrona Award for the best Scandinavian crime novel of the year for The Caveman. Book 10 in the Wisting series, Ordeal, was published in 2016, and a prequel, When it Grows Dark, was published just a few months ago in the UK. When we met with Lier Horst, the British fans of Scandinavian TV crime series were already looking forward to adaptations of six of his Wisting novels. The current series of 10 episodes (2019-20) are based on The Caveman and The Hunting Dogs.

From Police Investigator to Crime Writer

Jørn Lier Horst is a Former Senior Investigating Officer in Norway – and it shows in his popular William Wisting series. He has said that working as a chief investigator allowed him to “go behind the barrier tapes and to walk among the remains and traces of severe crimes. See the aftermath of a relentless struggle. Stepping into rooms that have been closed yet contain unexplored secrets.” This professional experience and how it has changed him as a human being is essentially where he would also like to bring his readers. Lier Horst has the following interesting perspective on how his background has influenced and strengthened his crime writing:

The police force provides an excellent advantage point for observing society, as well as an excellent starting point for writing realistic crime fiction. Sooner or later, the ineffective aspects of our society end up on the police’s plate. I write crime novels in an attempt to tell something about our modern welfare system that gives honest promises to be protective and inclusive, yet fail so many of its inhabitants – at the same time I try to give my readers an exciting and riveting story.”

William Wisting – A Fearless Policeman

The jury for the Petrona Award explained its choice of Lier Horst’s The Caveman for the 2016 award with the following words:

All the books in the ‘William Wisting’ series have had compelling narratives and The Caveman is no exception, exploring a Norwegian society where, in a supposedly close-knit community, a man can lie dead at home unnoticed and unmourned for weeks. Excellent plotting, well-drawn characters and writing of the highest quality make this book a worthy winner of the 2016 Petrona Award.

Through the, so far, ten books, Wisting has developed and changed in step with the Norwegian society. He has seen a growing sense of insecurity and how crime has become rougher and more professionalised. As the world around him has become darker, so has Wisting become increasingly disillusioned. Lier Horst explains his choice of writing a prequel to the series – with the recently published When it Grows Dark – by saying that he has in many ways written Wisting into a darkness and had therefore been wanting to go back, to find out how it started and how he really was before the crime trend accelerated in the negative direction:

What I found out when I wrote was that Wisting is the same then as now. Patient and understanding, and with the same driving force, namely the eternal belief to succeed. It has always been greater than the fear of failure. It has made Wisting a fearless policeman.”

In this way, Wisting is both similar to and different from the well-known Nordic Noir detectives. While he certainly has no illusions about living in an earthly welfare paradise, he is mustering a reassuring and socially concerned defence against the forces that threaten to break down the trusting relationships through which social welfare in the Nordic countries is formed and maintained. Wisting, therefore, is a new kind of (sober) police detective in Nordic Noir, at the same time as the novels maintain the stock Nordic Noir trait, which Jørn Lier Horst has succinctly defined as a crime narrative that fascinate readers around the world “by what we might call ‘Nordic melancholy’ concocted from winter darkness, midnight sun, and immense, desolate landscapes”:

The taciturn, slightly uncommunicative heroes are lone wolves living in a barren, cold part of the world, constantly on an uncompromising pursuit of truth and clarity. What’s more, the entire idea of paradise lost is a prominent feature of Nordic crime: the social-democratic efficient society attacked from within by violence, corruption and homicide.

In May 2017, Nordic Noir fans enjoyed a conversation with Jørn Lier Horst, Lone Theils and Stefan Ahnhem about their crime novels, Nordic Noir and social justice at a Book Club event at JuJu’s in East London.

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‘Borealism: In Search for the North’

Public Lecture by Professor Sylvain Briens (Paris Sorbonne) on how the North, the Nordic or ‘Borealism’ is shaped outside of the Nordic countries.


Since antiquity the North has fascinated historians, geographers, philosophers and Southern writers, who have projected various forms of discourse onto it, from scientific observations or social and political considerations to dreams, fears and fantasies. This projection can be referred to as “borealism”. Borealism describes the North as a discursive space, produced by and for the South. Borealism is also sometimes reproduced in Nordic expressions of self-identity. Join us for a public lecture at UCL in London where Professor Sylvain Briens will present aspects of “French borealism” with the example of the reception of Nordic Theater in Paris at the end of the 18th Century.

When: May 3 2018 at 5pm

Where: UCL, Gower Street, Wilkins Building, South Wing, IAS Common Ground

Contact: Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL Scandinavian Studies)

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In from the Cold: Northern Noir. A symposium on Northern crime writing, crime fiction translation and criticism

Nordic Noir Book Clubbers, particularly those of you with easy access to London, will no doubt be thrilled about this up-coming symposium featuring an amazing list of Nordic crime writers and translators. It should not keep anyone away (I hope) that I shall be delivering the keynote. Read more about the symposium here.

18 October, 2017 (9am – 8.30pm), Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London SW1P 3EU

Free but places are limited and must be reserved in advance. Please register here.

Over the past decade there has been a boom in Northern European crime fiction – in books, film and on television. Characterised by dark, wintry settings and even darker themes, this ‘Northern Noir’ frequently addresses important questions about crime, social welfare, immigration, gender, family and marginalised, vulnerable citizens. This special symposium brings together some of Europe’s best crime writers, translators and critics to discuss the characteristics of northern crime fiction. How does crime fiction in Britain differ from Northern Europe? What are the cultural similarities and differences? Is it possible to define a recognisable ‘northern’ tradition of crime writing that crosses national borders? Our packed programme includes author interviews, readings and panels, academic talks, a translation slam and public workshops. Entrance to this day of events is free but places are limited and must be reserved in advance.

Authors: Håkan Nesser (Sweden), Kjell Ola Dahl (Norway), Torkil Damhaug (Norway), Indrek Hargla (Estonia), Karo Hämäläinen (Finland), Jógvan Isaksen (Faroe Islands/ Denmark), Henry Sutton (UK).

Translators: Don BartlettKari DicksonKevin Halliwell.

Academics, Chairs & Organisers: Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (University College London), Prof. Amanda Hopkinson (City, University of London), Dr Karen Seago (City, University of London), Dr Minna Vuohelainen (City, University of London), Rosie Goldsmith (European Literature Network).

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“Probably the best Scandinavian crime writing event” in London on 22. May.

scancrimefiction-frontpageThere are still tickets – and only one week to go! – for this exciting event featuring spine-tingling, entertaining and thought-provoking new crime novels from Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Join in to celebrate the launch of Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen’s study Scandinavian Crime Fiction, and meet the authors Jørn Lier Horst, Lone Theils and Stefan Ahnhem. Famous and bestselling writers in their homelands and across Scandinavia, they will introduce English readers to new and “old” kinds of Nordic detectives and share stories about their recent contributions to the continued renewal of Nordic Noir.

Join us on Monday 22. May (2017) at 7pm (doors open at 6pm) at JuJu’s Bar and Stage (15 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR).

Tickets sell for £5 at Eventbritehttps://goo.gl/adHwiA

The featured authors’ books will be available for purchase and signing at the event. There will also be the opportunity to view and buy new Scandinavian literature from the Norvik Press stall.

For more information visit the event page at https://goo.gl/mX2qLZ

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Meet Stefan Ahnhem (Profile)

Stefan Ahnhem. Photo:
Thron Ullberg

Meet the Swedish screenwriter who turned to crime writing when the Nordic Noir Book Club gets together on 22. May 2017. All Welcome.

Stefan Ahnhem is one of the most successful new voices to appear on the Scandinavian crime fiction scene in recent years. Tony Parsons has said of Ahnhem’s novels that they are “Blacker than Stieg Larsson and more bleakly human than Henning Mankell.”

A screenwriter with over two decades of experience, writing scripts for some of Sweden’s most famous crime series such as Wallander and Irene Huss, Ahnhem has since his debut in 2014 with Victim Without a Face (translated by Rachel Wilson-Broyles and published by Head of Zeus in 2015) built an authorship where the suspense and atmosphere of Nordic Noir is combined with the cinematic qualities of screenwriting. Victim without a Face was Sweden’s bestselling debut of 2014, and it won the Crimetime Specsavers Award. So far, Ahnhem’s books are published in 20 countries.

Victim Without a Face (Fabian Risk #1)

Criminal Investigator Fabian Risk has left Stockholm with his wife, Sonja, and their two children to start fresh in his hometown of Helsingborg. He has planned a six-week vacation before he starts a new job at the Homicide Department. But after only a few hours in their new home, he is asked to investigate a brutal murder. The body of Jörgen Pålsson, one of Risk’s former classmates, has been found with both hands missing. Soon the bodies of more old classmates are found, and Risk finds himself in a race against time: Can they find the murderer before the entire class is killed?

To date three novels have been published in the internationally bestselling and award-winning Fabian Risk series. Stefan Ahnhem won Germany’s coveted MIMI award with the second book in the series, The Ninth Grave (translated by Paul Norlen and published by Head of Zeus in 2016). The Ninth Grave is a chilling thriller set six months before the events in Victim Without a Face. It is the second stand-alone novel about detective Fabian Risk.

The Ninth Grave (Fabian Risk #2)

Would you kill for the one you love? On the coldest day of the year, the Swedish Minister of Justice disappears without a trace from the short walk between the house of Parliament and his car. That same night, a Danish celebrity finds a stranger lurking in her snow-bound home north of Copenhagen. Her body is discovered not long after. Soon more dead turn up, all missing different body parts. As Criminal Investigator Fabian Risk and Danish counterpart Dunja Hougaard race to put the pieces together, they are dragged into a conspiracy worse than anyone could imagine.

Fans of Nordic Noir TV series will be pleased to learn that Nordisk Film, the leading Nordic entertainment company, has bought the rights to the first four books in the Fabian Risk series.

Join fellow Nordic Noir fans for a conversation with Stefan Ahnhem, Lone Theils and Jørn Lier Horst about their crime novels and Nordic Noir at the next Book Club event on 22. May 2017 (see details and how to book your ticket above, all are welcome).


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Meet Lone Theils (Profile)

Lone Theils fotocredit Hazel Thompson

Lone Theils

Meet the Danish London Correspondent who turned to crime writing when the Nordic Noir Book Club gets together on 22. May 2017. All Welcome.

Lone Theil’s debut novel Fatal Crossing featuring Nora Sand, a no-nonsense kick-boxing half Danish-half British correspondent, is out today in the UK in Charlotte Barslund’s excellent translation, published by Arcadia Books.

Fatal Crossing is all we have come to expect of Nordic Noir, and more: a strong female lead, socially engaged and a strong sense place – however, the setting is not the snow-covered, melancholic Scandinavia we have come to expect. Set in the UK, drawing on the author’s love for her “second home” (Lone has lived in London for 16 years), it is sure to attract British fans of the genre, as it did its Danish readers, when the book came out in 2015. The novel spent a considerable amount of time on the Danish bestseller lists and has been sold to 16 countries for translation, among them the UK, Germany, Sweden, Australia and Japan.

Based on a true story (and the author)

The no-nonsense kickboxing former correspondent, Lone Theils, has been working as a journalist for almost 20 years, the majority of that in London, writing, doing television and radio. She has covered conflicts in Kosovo and Northern Ireland and also contributed to two guide books on London and Dublin. There is a great deal of Lone Theils in Nora Sand. Apart from kickboxing and journalism, they share a love for Nina Simone.

Fatal Crossing was inspired by a true story, where some pictures of unknown girls, taken at Copenhagen’s Central Station, mysteriously appeared in the hands of an American serial killer. In Theil’s novel, the picture of two Danish girls, who disappeared on a boat bound for England (the fatal crossing of the title) in 1985, emerges many years later in an old suitcase from a British second-hand dealer, and Nora Sand’s professional curiosity is immediately awakened. But before she knows it, she is mixed up in the case of a serial killer who is serving a life sentence in a notorious British prison and the quest to discover the truth about the missing girls will be more dangerous than she had ever imagined.

Read reviews of Fatal Crossing at Booklover Book Reviews and Reading, Writing and Riesling. There is also a nice interview with Lone at Love Books Group.

Join fellow Nordic Noir fans for a conversation with Lone Theils, Jørn Lier Horst and Stefan Ahnhem about their crime novels, Nordic Noir and True Crime at the next Book Club event on 22. May 2017 (see details and how to book your ticket above, all are welcome).


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Tickets on sale for Nordic Noir Book Club event featuring Jorn Lier Horst, Lone Theils and Stefan Ahnhem

Join us for an all-Scandinavian evening of thrilling bestselling crime fiction with Jorn Lier Horst (Norway), Lone Theils (Denmark) and Stefan Ahnhem (Sweden). Prepare for battle, as the authors and audience engage in the historic sibling rivalry of the Scandinavian countries to decide, once and for all, which of the Scandinavian countries is more “Nordic Noir”.

When: Monday 22 May 2017, 6:00pm – 9:00pm (Event starts at 7:00pm, but if you arrive at 6:00 food is available to order, as there is a delivery service to the table at Juju’s from Poppies Fish and Chips across the road)

Where: JuJu’s Bar and Stage at the Old Truman Brewery. Access is from Ely’s Yard, Truman Brewery, 15 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR.

Tickets: Tickets are available from Eventbrite at £5. Please purchase your tickets here.

Jorn Lier Horst will present his latest novel When It Grows Dark (Sandstone Press), a prequel to his now 10-volume William Wisting series.

Lone Theils will present her debut novel about the journalist Nora Sand, Fatal Crossing (Arcadia) – a true Scandinavian crime novel, which takes place mostly in the UK.

Stefan Ahnhem will present the second instalment in his Fabian Risk series, The Ninth Grave (Head of Zeus).

The event will also feature the launch of the founder of the Nordic Noir Book Club, Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen’s book Scandinavian Crime Fiction (Bloomsbury).

Books will be available for purchase from Newham Books and for signing at the event.

Please check back on the blog for more information about the event, the authors and their books; and please contact Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (j.stougaard-nielsen@ucl.ac.uk) if you have questions about the event.

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Jørn Lier Horst, Lone Theils and Stefan Ahnhem @ Nordic Noir Book Club Event in London, May 22nd

The Nordic Noir Book Club in London is excited and proud to give advance notice of an upcoming event in London featuring prominent crime writers from Norway, Denmark and Sweden: Jørn Lier Horst, Lone Theils and Stefan Ahnhem.

Jørn Lier Horst’s latest crime novel (in the William Wisting series) “When it grows dark” (translated by Anne Bruce) is out today from Sandstone Press.

Lone Theil’s bestselling debut novel “Fatal Crossing” (translated by Charlotte Barslund) will be out in April from Arcadia Books.

Stefan Ahnhem’s second novel in the Fabian Risk series, “The Ninth Grave” (translated by Paul Norlen) was out earlier this year from Head of Zeus.

Start reading and return to these pages for more on the authors and their novels. The event will take place in the evening of the 22nd of May at JuJu’s (The Truman Brewery). So, reserve the date in your calendars. Tickets will go “on sale” in a couple of weeks, and will be announced on the Nordic Noir Book Club blog.

We are looking forward to seeing new and old Scandinavian crime fiction fans in London in May. Please contact Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (j.stougaard-nielsen@ucl.ac.uk) if you have questions about the event.

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Scandinavian Crime Fiction – The Book

scancrimefiction-frontpageMy book, Scandinavian Crime Fiction, has now been published by Bloomsbury. On the Nordic Noir Book Club blog, you can find information about the book, learn about how the book came into being, read reviews and, not least, find out how to purchase a copy with a Book Club discount.

Click here to visit the Book page on the NNBC Blog

In other news, the Book Club is working on a new London event scheduled for late May featuring crime writers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Follow us on Facebook and on the blog to receive further news about the event and early access to tickets.


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