Having written a couple of weeks ago about Anne Holt's upcoming novel 1222 (due to be published in the UK by Corvus in December, in a translation by Marlaine Delargy), I was pleased to read an interview with the author in last week's (24 September) Bookseller (p. 23). Unfortunately, the title of the profile is "Scandi sensation" but that is the worst bit.
Wisely, and despite the opening paragraph of the article trying so hard to do the opposite, Anne Holt "is keen not to jump on Larsson's bandwaggon, pointing out the differences between his style of crime writing and her own, which is more typically Scandinavian. 'He wrote in more of an American style, very tough, brutal stories. The rest of us who have been translated into English – Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum and myself – write in more of a social realistic/political way, in the Sjowall and Wahloo tradition.' "
Now I don't want to pick holes in an argument, and I have enjoyed Anne Holt's three novels so far translated into English, but I would characterise these precisely as American-style thrillers – much of one of them is set in the USA, another features a serial killer of children, and the third is about the kidnapping of the US president when she visits Norway. All feature the FBI and profiling. I appreciate that 1222 is perhaps different from these, concerning a different protagonist and being likened to Agatha Christie in style. But if this Agatha Christie appelation is appropriate, then it is Yrsa Sigurdardottir I would invoke, not Sjowall/Wahloo!
Further, I would say that S. Larsson relies very heavily on the Martin Beck series in his last novel, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Recently reading The Terrorists, the last of the Sjowall/Wahloo series of ten novels, I was very struck by the parallels and realise how much S. Larsson had taken and developed themes from that novel. Another contemporary author who could be included in that particular aspect of S. Larsson is, as pointed out by Norman of Crime Scraps, Liza Marklund (particularly her latest translated novel, Red Wolf).
Anne Holt brackets Mankell, Nesbo and Fossum (with herself), yet I'd say these authors are very different! Fossum writes introspective, dark but deceptively simple fables. Mankell and Nesbo write police procedurals, the former with a gloomy detective and the latter with a more cheerful one, but Nesbo's are really thrillers, with ornate and ghoulish set-pieces (I would call him as brutal as S. Larsson, on his day). Larsson's three novels, as I wrote the other day, are all rather different from each other. Roslund/Hellstrom have many similarities with the final novel; Karin Alvtegen's Missing with the middle book, and the first one perhaps reminds me a bit of Johan Theorin. But the point is, each author varies his or her books, and one author cannot be simplistically compared with another.
Turning to the new book, 1222, Anne Holt says that it is a homage to Agatha Christie and is her attempt to write a classic locked-room mystery with a "tempo that is more contemporary". Unfortunately, it is the eighth in the Hanne Wihelmsen series, so there is a lot of back-story that English-language readers are going to miss out on – but not for long as apparently Corvus plans to publish the first seven novels in the series next year, together with the Vik/Stubo series which were first published here by Sphere. Regarding Hanne, Anne Holt says that "creating a believable person who is very far from yourself is what I find most intriguing about being an author."
Holt says "The most frustrating thing about crime fiction is when you enjoy the book all the way and the end just falls apart. So what I do is write the end first. I spend four weeks writing the last 10 pages, which then act as a kind of lighthouse." Intriguing! I am very much looking forward to 1222.
Anne Holt graduated from the University of Bergen with a degree in law, and from 1984 to 1996 was a journalist for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, police attorney in the Oslo police department, and a lawyer running her own practice. Her first novel was published in 1993. From 1996 to 1997 she was the Norwegian Minister for Justice.
Notes on the authors mentioned here:
Holt, Nesbo, Fossum are Norwegian. Sigurdardottir is Icelandic. S. Larsson, Marklund, Mankell, Roslund/Hellstrom, Theorin and Alvtegen are Swedish.