A European view of current crime-fiction favourites

AlfaEvery month the Bookseller provides a list of the bestsellers in the previous month in some European countries. This time (9 April issue) it is the turn of Germany, Sweden, Spain and France. Crime isn't featuring too much in the German lists for March, with the only top-10 entries being Ausgelöscht (Abandoned) by Corey McFadyen at number 3 and Todesspiele (Kill for Me) by Karen Rose at 9. The rest do not look to me as if they are crime fiction.
In Sweden, however, it is a different story, with the eagerly awaited (by me) Postcard Killers (Swedish title) by Liza Marklund and A. N. Other (forgotten his name;-) ) at number 1. Also in the top ten are Kniven i hjartat (The Knife in the Heart) by B Ranelid (4), Alfahannen (The Alpha Male) by Katarina Wennstrom (5), Den förlorade symbolen (no translation necessary) by some guy or other (6), Gatans Iag (The Brass Verdict) by Michael Connelly (7), Dödsmässa (Midnight Fugue) by Reginald Hill (8), Oroligh blod (Blood's a Rover) by J Ellroy (9) and Tedags for normalt.….(!) (Tea Time for the Coben
Sangre  ….[which I fill in as] the Traditionally Built] by Alexander McCall Smith (10). Can you imagine the UK top-10 chart with 6 titles originally written in other languages, and a total of 8 crime-fiction titles? 

Moving to Spain, the only two non-Spanish-language titles in March's top 10 are Sangre derramada (The Blood Spilt, Swedish) by Asa Larsson (9) and El simbolo perdido (who was that author again?) at 10. The previous eight, from what I can tell, don't seem to be crime fiction, although number 1, El asedio (The Siege) by A Pérez-Reverte is by a man sometimes (incorrectly?) classified as a crime author.

In France, number one is Sans lassier d'adresse , translated in the chart as With No Address to Follow (!)* by Harlan Coben. Apart from that, the only crime novel in the list seems to be Le symbole perdu (er….), at 7.

Of course, these lists don't mean very much as they are determined to some extent by when novels are translated into the languages concerned. I'm quite struck, though, by how many bestselling novels in these countries are translated, compared with similar charts in the US and UK (what about Australia and New Zealand, both English-language charts but which I don't usually see each week?).

I can't imagine anything like the Swedish list in the UK. Here, all three novels by Stieg Larsson are currently riding very high (the third having just come out in paperback and the film of the first on general release a month or so ago) – but there are no other translated novels in the top 50.

*Actual US/UK title: Long Lost.

10 thoughts on “A European view of current crime-fiction favourites

  1. Maxine – Thanks so much for this perspective on what’s popular in crime fiction. I find it so interesting to look at what’s popular in different places. As you say, in many cases, it has a lot to do with what’s available in a given language. It’s the same with music, I think; there are sometimes huge differences among countries in the kinds of music that are popular…

  2. No Maxine we don’t have a lot of translated stuff in our bestseller lists either. We have the first and third Larsson books in at the moment but that’s it (for both crime fiction and translated fiction).

  3. Hey Maxine,
    Generally we don’t have a lot of translated stuff on our Top 10 lists, although Larsson of course has been dominant this year, and Mankell I believe has made an appearance before (Lackberg might have). Our latest list, for the week ended 15 April (they do the lists on a Thursday for some reason) is as follows:
    Current Number One Bestseller on 15 April 2010
    1 House Rules by Picoult, Jodi
    2 61 Hours by Lee Child
    3 The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson
    4 The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
    5 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
    6 Recipe for Life by Nicky Pellegrino
    7 Caught by Harlan Coben
    8 Stolen Pearse by Michael Joseph Lesley
    9 Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra
    10 Killing Floor by Lee Child
    … So plenty of crime and thriller fiction…

  4. To be mischievous, you could argue that several of the ‘foreign’ novels (Stieg Larsson for example) that do make the UK chart aren’t actually translated into English, but into American!

  5. Maxine – Fully agree that Pérez Reverte should not be considered a crime fiction writer, although he has some books that may fall into that category.
    Probably among the top 10 in Spain you may find a crime fiction writer that is worth following although his books might not be available in English (I do need to check that). La estrategia del agua (The water startegy) by Lorenzo Silva. Lorenzo Silva website is http://www.lorenzo-silva.com/

  6. Another thing about the Swedish reading habits-
    is that very many of them have such good English-
    that they read UK+USA fiction in the original.
    In many bookshops –as much as a third of the books are
    in English–and some degree courses –especially science
    are taught in English.

  7. Interesting viewpoint, Meditations – although both the US and the UK editions are the same translations (by Steven T Murray), they are probably edited differently by the publishers. I have only read the English editions, but there are certainly differences in language between the US and UK editions of Camilleri, also translated by the same person (Stephen Sartarelli).
    Thanks, Jose, I will check the chart again – using “google translate” I checked out all the titles in non-English that I didn’t recognise, to see if they looked like crime fiction or not, but I may have missed one.
    And thank you Simon – I was amused, along those lines, to see the Swedish title of The Postcard Killers to be The Postcard Killers, even though the text is presumably in Swedish, and the fact that there is not a US/UK edition out yet might make you wonder who actually wrote it?!;-)

  8. If you look at the cover of the Swedish version of The Potscard Killers, (http://www.piratforlaget.se/bocker/marklund—postcard-killers?prodindex=0) the actual title is secondary – the authors’ names are so huge!
    I have enormous respect for Steve T Murray, and his partner Tiina Nunnally… but a random glance at her translation of Mari Junstedt’s Unknown reveals a character who has “gotten lost”. Isn’t gotten one of the ugliest constructions you can imagine? 😉

  9. Meditations – first, the author, translator and editor have no control or probably even input onto cover design.
    Second – I don’t think you should link Steven Murray to Tiina Nunnally if you want to comment on Tiina Nunnally’s translation. Whoever Tiina’s partner might be is irrelevant, if you wish to comment on her work. In response to your point about “gotten” – Tiina is American and “gotten” is a normal word in American English whereas it is archaic in English English; and a translator turns in a translation, but has no control thereafter on the publisher’s editing process. So in reading a translated book, one does not know if a certain wording is the author’s, the translator’s, the editor’s or the publisher’s. Therefore it is not appropriate or correct to personalise your dislike in this manner.

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