One of the most enduringly popular genres of crime fiction is the police procedural, and the three E authors I've chosen today are all highly readable exponents. Police procedurals are both challenging puzzles to be solved by logic, and are a comforting reminder that law and order prevails in the end.
Or are they? The two Swedish authors in my selection, Ake Edwardson and Kjell Eriksson, are not in the business of providing an over-cosy experience for their readers. Kjell Eriksson's three novels that have so far been translated into English are centred on Ann Lindell and her team of Uppsala detectives. Not only are these policemen fallible, missing leads and failing to make connections, but the people they encounter – immigrants, drug smugglers, high-rise dwellers, daughters of strange professors – provide a disturbing tapestry. Ake Edwardson's Erik Winter series, set in Gothenburg, is conceived as a ten-part series of which three have so far been translated into English (a fourth is on the way). Erik's team of detectives, too, have their fallibilities – and the stories tend to feature wayward teenagers or abducted children, reflecting the author's own professional experience in this area.
Martin Edwards has already featured in this alphabet series, so I shan't say too much more here about his books except to highlight his Lake District series featuring a senior police detective, Hannah Scarlett. There are three books in this series so far (at least one more is planned); as well as the police investigations, the novels provide an imaginative, mysterious, historical aspect (arsenic labyrinths, cipher gardens and the like) and a literary theme – whether academics or booksellers.
All three authors provide likeable protagonists. Hannah and Ann have trouble with their personal lives - Hannah has an obnoxious partner and Ann is a single parent. Erik is now more happily settled: in one of the earlier novels he was in the throes of domestic uncertainty, but of late he's settled down to being a partner and father as well as a successful detective. None of these three protagonists has any of the classic problems with which the crime-fiction genre is often unfairly characterised – not an alcoholic, melancholic loner among them. Yet they're all rounded, flawed individuals, and all the more interesting to the reader for it. Another common aspect of these books is that they are all gripping without being sensationalistic for the sake of it. They all cover dark themes, usually unflinchingly, but don't rely on gratuitous gore to convey tension and excitement.
And while on that theme, I can't understand why books by award-winning authors like Edwardson and Eriksson don't get more of a push in the UK. (Asa Larsson is another excellent yet under-sold author in this country.) Quercus/MacLehose did a great job on promoting Stieg Larsson, and Jo Nesbo gets lots of marketing exposure from Vintage, as London train and tube passengers can attest. Eriksson's books don't even have UK translations (the three that are in English can be obtained in their US editions), and Edwardson's next English-language translation looks like being the last. Asa Larsson may also face a similar fate. This is really bad news: these novels do so well on mainland Europe, sales- and awards-wise, it is such a pity that the UK can't do better by these authors. I would far rather read my "E" authors than the latest slash-fest!
The links in this post go to the authors' Euro Crime entries, where I and others have reviewed them. (Some of my reviews are in the press at Euro Crime.)
Dorte at DJs krimiblog has written about Martin Edwards in this alphabet meme, and links to her reviews of his books in this post.
Mysteries in Paradise review of The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards.