Nordic Noir-Style Mysteries in Non-Urban Settings
September 23, 2021 2:59 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for well-written Nordic Noir-style mysteries with a strong sense of place in non-urban, preferably isolated settings/closely-knit communities like islands etc.

Do not need them to be actually set in a Nordic country/territory but prefer northern climes, extreme winters etc.
posted by whitelotus to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
The Ann Cleeves Shetland series of books ticks these boxes I think.

There’s also a BBC dramatisation series which is pretty good.

Louise Penny’s Gamache books might also work.
posted by JJZByBffqU at 3:17 AM on September 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

Many of Henning Mankell's books take place in a rural setting. If you enjoy a mystery TV series, you could do worse than the BBC version of this. Also on TV, a miniseries of Beartown by Fredrik Backman which also has a crime storyline.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is Nordic, rural and isolated. It's really a stunning book. It's not a fast-paced noir mystery, though. It's a retelling of a historic nineteenth century crime, or rather the aftermath of that crime, with a theory of how that crime actually unfolded making an appearance near the end. It does not solve the crime step by step throughout the book, or anything like that. You can probably tell if you're going to like this book by reading the first chapter.
posted by BibiRose at 4:51 AM on September 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Was immediately going to reply with Ann Cleeves Shetland books. To be fair, her series featuring 'Vera' are also set in rural NE England.

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet is historical crime set in the highlands of Scotland. Very well-written and captures the harshness of the setting well.

I haven't read it yet, but I've heard a lot of good things about 'Pine' by Francine Toon.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 6:17 AM on September 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Apologies for lack of properly accented letters in the following.

Ragnar Jonasson sets his crime novels in isolated parts of Iceland. I find them very good on atmosphere. There's the Dark Iceland series, six books (available in English) starting with Snowblind, which are set in and around Siglufjordur, a fishing village accessible only via a mountain tunnel and hence rather cut off from the rest of the country. Whiteout is the one I first thought of when I saw your question. And then there's the Hidden Iceland trilogy, The Darkness, The Island and The Mist. These should be read in order. The third offers the most isolation.

Sticking with Icelandic authors, some of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's Thora Gudmundsdottir books might also fit the bill:

My Soul To Take is set at a health resort in a farmhouse;
Ashes to Dust is set in a village buried by a volcanic eruption;
The Day Is Dark is set on and around an archaeological site in a sparsely populated part of Greenland.

(I should maybe note that I do find the protagonist of that series quite hard work, but I rate the writer as an author, so I'm recommending them anyway. I found the setting of The Day Is Dark the most interesting.)

And a third Icelandic option: if you don't want to read the whole Inspector Erlendur series by Arnaldur Indridason (they're very good, but many are set in Reykjavik), Silence of the Grave will give you the background you need to really appreciate the intensely atmospheric Hypothermia.

Finally, a Norwegian offering: 1222 by Anne Holt is part of (and quite late on in) the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, but can be read as a standalone, and its characters find themselves trapped by a snowstorm in a hotel in the mountains. Not so much of the tightly-knit community; plenty of isolation. It's excellent.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:27 AM on September 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

Peter Mays' Lewis Series.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:29 AM on September 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Also Entry Island by Peter May.
posted by leaper at 10:42 AM on September 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Disappearing Earth by Julia Philips should fit the bill. It's marketed more as literary fiction, but the plot's throughline concerns the mystery of what happened to two missing girls. It takes place in the remote Kamchatka peninsula in Russia, and it's very good.
posted by Leontine at 11:02 AM on September 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Echoes From the Dead, by Johan Theorin, set on the Swedish island of Oland (from whence my ancestors came!).
And I see that it's the first of a series of four, so I've got some reading to do.
posted by Corvid at 2:43 PM on September 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

This is a bit more in the literary section but Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk takes place in a remote village in Poland. Very good sense of scene and character due in no small part to the very off-kilter narrator, a rather odd older woman. I was enthralled.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:10 PM on September 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I have actually read the "Shetland" series, Henning Mankell, as well as Anne Holt's 1222 but thank you all for the suggestions which are not so obvious when it comes to Nordic Noir reading lists. I will be checking out all of them. I'm not so sure that period settings are my cup of tea but I'll give them a go.
posted by whitelotus at 5:48 PM on September 23, 2021

It’s not 100% the same vibe, but you might be interested in answers to my recommendation thread: Not-quite-Nordic, not-necessarily-noir?
posted by Monochrome at 8:29 PM on September 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hemming Mankel’s Wallander books (and of course TV series) might scratch that itch.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:50 PM on September 23, 2021

My husband loves Roy Jacobsen's Barroy series. They don't exactly fit your criteria because they are not mysteries! But they are definitely Nordic and mysterious and are set on a remote island.
posted by secretary bird at 11:57 AM on September 26, 2021

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