ARCs, mysteries

Nordic Noir and Glass Keys

Long before Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo won a Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel, Auntie’s Bookstore (where I work) was accumulating Scandinavian mysteries faster than snow in February. The Glass Key is named for the famous noir novel by Dashiell Hammett, and is an actual glass key given out every year by the Crime Writers of Scandinavia.

Note: All of Scandinavia is represented by the celebrated mysteries below—except Finland. Unfortunately, the only Finnish writer to ever receive the Glass Key has not been translated into English. That author is Matti Ronka, who was chosen in 2007 for their thriller Friends Far Away.


Glass Key Winners

  • Henning Mankell 1992
    • Sweden
      In this series, Detective Kurt Wallender is a passionate opera fan with a drinking problem whose personal and family struggles–especially with his daughter–as pronounced as his brilliance on the job.
  • Peter Hoeg 1993
    • Denmark
      Hoeg didn’t write a series, but his haunting mystery Smilla’s Sense of Snow, in which a young Inuit boy is murdered, was made into an evocative movie. It is set in Greenland. Dorothy Parker, widely praised for elevating the crime genre in her day, would have approved of Hoeg’s lyrical literary style.
  • Karin Fossum 1997
    • Norway
      Inspecter Sejur is a mild-mannered man who is comforted by order, authority and justice, and desires to understand the criminal mind. He also has a sweet Somalii grandson.
  • Jo Nesbo 1998
    • Norway
      Inspector Harry Hole is a tough and troubled detective who stars in dark, multi-layered and violent stories like The Snowman, which often feature women in peril.
  • Arnaldur Indridason 2002 & 2003
    • Iceland
      Brooding Reykjavik Detective Erlendur is as enigmatic as they come, and Jar City is now a popular movie. Fun fact: Indridason also wrote two thrillers set in Iceland during WWII.
  • Jussi Adler-Olson 2010
    • Denmark
      In Department Q, Chief Detective Carl Morck is haunted by the murder of two of his fellow homicide detectives—in which he personally took a bullet but didn’t draw his gun.
  • Camille Grebe 2018
    • Sweden
      Once a valued police asset, insightful psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön runs into personal and professional trouble after becoming a crime victim herself.

The Scandinavian Flags and the Countries They Represent

  1. Denmark
  2. Sweden
  3. Iceland
    1. Iceland is an autonomous country which declared independence from Denmark in 1944. Previously it was part of the kingdom of Denmark-Norway.
  4. Finland
  5. Norway
  6. Greenland
    1. Greenland is currently an “autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark”, although it has a large indigenous Inuit population. Independence is desired by many inhabitants including political parties and advocacy groups.