Molly’s Top 10 International Crime Novels of 2015

  • Post by Molly Odintz

 Last year, I posted a list of my top international crime novels, and a list of my top novels of the year, foreign and domestic. This year, as part of my life-long attempt to destroy all hierarchies and question all assumptions, I have decided to include my top international crime fiction as one list, and my top domestic crime picks as another.

Below, you’ll find an eclectic group of novels, united only by the scattered and distant nature of their geography. Next week, I’ll be posting my list of top picks for US-based fiction – more concentrated geographically, but just as diverse in subject matter


innocence or murder on steep street1. Innocence, or, Murder on Steep Street by Heda Margolius-Kovály, Translated by Alex Zucker

Explore the world of 1950s Prague, where the men are either Russian occupiers or in the gulag, and the women who try hardest to do the right thing are the ones most morally compromised by the Soviet system. This darkly atmospheric novel was written by a woman who had worked to translate Raymond Chandler into Czech, and functions as a perfect Soviet noir. Available in English for the first time!Read More »

MysteryPeople Remembers Henning Mankell

-Post by Molly

Henning Mankell, Swedish novelist and activist known internationally for his police procedurals featuring detective Kurt Wallander, passed away earlier this month, on October 5th. I’ve been fan of his work for some years, ever since my sister brought some British editions of his novels home from a study abroad trip to Germany. I was lured by the deceptive simplicity of his language and the murky waters of the morality he portrays. Hearing of his death, I felt moved to write of what his work has meant to me, and bit of what it meant to the rest of the world.

Read More »

Murder In The Afternoon Book Club To Discuss: THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbø

snowman

The Murder In The Afternoon meets the third Tuesday of each month at 2 pm up on BookPeople’s third floor. All book clubs are free and open to the public, and book club selections are 10% off at the register in the month of discussion. The Murder In The Afternoon book club will meet next on Tuesday, March 17, at 2 pm to discuss Jo Nesbø‘s great Scandinavian thriller, The Snowman.


Winter is not over yet for our Murder In The Afternoon book club. In fact, it will be chilling for more reasons than one. We will be reading The Snowman, the book that put author Jo Nesbø on the map and continued the world’s growing interest in Scandinavian crime fiction.

The Snowman is the seventh book to feature tortured Oslo police detective Harry Hole. FBI trained, he is able to track down the worst of the worst while questioning what is becoming of his city and country. This time he may be dealing with Norway’s first serial killer, whose trademark signifier is to leave a snowman at the crime scene.

Snowman is rich in character with a look at the sociology and politics of modern Norway, so be prepared to discuss.


We’ll be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor, at 2pm, Tuesday, March 17th. The Snowman is 10% off to those planning to attend.

Video Interview with Megan Abbott & Jo Nesbø

Coming up this Wednesday, April 30th, our Hard Word Book Club will be discussing Jo Nesbø’s The Redbreast  here at BookPeople. We’re also already looking forward to next month, on May 28th, when we’ll be talking about Megan Abbott’s The Song Is You.

In our excitement for these books, we found this interview from the Adelaide Writer’s Week back in 2012. It’s a great way to bone up for either of our book club meetings or simply learn more about these great authors.

Check it out here.

 

A Conversation with Jo Nesbø

JoNesbo

~post by Chris M

Three years ago I had never heard of Jo Nesbø. I was still relatively new to crime fiction and had only really covered the essentials: Jim Thompson, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, etc… I remember the day I cracked open my copy of The Redbreast, which was the earliest Inspector Harry Hole novel available in America at the time. I was sitting in a coffee shop on South 1st here in Austin, TX. I distinctly remember taking a sip of my coffee and burning my mouth. So I read a few pages, or so I thought, reached over and took another sip of coffee and it had gone cold. I looked at the corner of the page and quickly realized that those few pages I read were actually the first hundred.

I was enthralled. I finished The Redbreast in two days. Within a month I’d read four Harry Hole novels. By the end of that year I’d read every Nesbø novel I could get my hands on.

2011 was the year Jo Nesbø became my favorite modern crime writer, and in October of 2013 I got the chance to interview him. I remember having a slight freak out in the minutes before I was supposed to call Jo at his hotel in Vancouver, BC. I was pouring over the questions I’d written in advance, sweating, and chain smoking in a futile attempt to calm my nerves. But when I did finally connect with Mr. Nesbø the strangest thing happened; I forgot all about my pre-written questions, my nervousness faded into the empty space at the back of my mind, and my cigarette burned out without my noticing.

It was a singular experience for me, a guy who rarely gets star struck. I was all geared up to wow my favorite author with intellectual questions about art, and writing, and the deeper meanings buried within his novels, but when the time came to ask those questions I just shot from the hip. And we just talked. We talked about his characters, his writing process, his future plans, and the international success of his novels, but it wasn’t forced. We didn’t follow the typical interview protocol of posing a question, getting a response, and moving on to the next item on the agenda. It was a conversation between two people, one of whom happens to be an international and critically acclaimed writer.

When the conversation ended I quickly scrambled to my computer to plug in my digital recorder to review the interview, only to find that my batteries had died about 20 minutes into our conversation. I was crushed. Here I was, ready to transcribe every word and publish it for all to see, and now I had nothing to show. No proof that my dream-come-true had even occurred. So I present to you faithful reader, a very short version of a great conversation with Jo Nesbø.

CHRIS: Do you think there is any redemption for a Harry Hole, a man who is a career alcoholic and addict?

JO NESBØ: I think so. Harry is a haunted guy. Everything he does is for others. He spends a lot of his time trying to help other people because it is his way of repenting. He’s a police inspector because that’s something he excels at. Where he is more or less in control. Relationships are not the same for him, and he struggles with maintaining control. He has a fear that the people in his life will leave him, and I think that informs a lot of his choices.

CHRIS: In a recent NPR segment, you were interviewed while walking the streets of Oslo. Based on that interview it seems like Oslo is a little brighter than the version you write in your novels. Do you think the city is as dark as you present it, or is Harry just the type of character who requires a darker landscape?

NESBØ: The Oslo in the Harry Hole novels is a version that does and doesn’t exist. Oslo has good and bad areas, like lots of cities, but I sometimes focus on the darker aspects of Oslo. We have drugs and prostitution. You can still find working girls and junkies in Oslo, so it’s got its problems, but as a fiction writer you get to create things, so the Oslo in my books is an exploration of those darker things.

CHRIS: Olso is a city that has a bit of a sordid past in the world of music, specifically the Black Metal movement in the early 1990’s. Do you still see those extreme attitudes in present day Oslo?

NESBØ: Not really so much anymore. I think there are still those who believe in that sort of ideology, but it’s not expressed in extreme ways. For example, my band went to a recording studio to record our record and there were these black metal guys in the studio too, but they were very professional. We play a sort of pop-rock n roll and these guys look like the party guys, but it was us who ended up being the partiers! The metal guys were all very nice and respectful. Totally professional.

CHRIS: There is a rumor floating around that Martin Scorsese is going to be direction the film version of The Snowman. Is this true?

NESBØ: Well he was initially supposed to direct it, but he is so busy that he won’t be able to. He is very interested in the film. He is still going to be involved with it, but not as a director.

____________________________________________

So there you have it. A very short version of the epic conversation I had with Jo Nesbø. I would like to thank the good folks over at Random House for giving me this opportunity. If you haven’t read a Nesbø novel, come find me at BookPeople and I will make sure you leave with at least one (but probably more like 10).

Hard Word Book Club Goes to Norway with Jo Nesbo & THE REDBREAST

On April 30th, The Hard Word Book Club leaves our normal American environs for one of the foremost practitioners of Scandinavian Noir. Jo Nesbo has rocked crime fiction readers around the world with his Harry Hole series. We will be reading his first book ever published in the States, The Redbreast.

The Redbreast was the first book to have the hard drinking, depressive yet tenacious cop, Harry Hole, out in his own Oslo stomping ground. Due to his past indiscretions, he’s put on a “light” routine assignment of surveillance of a group of “skin-heads.” The assignment becomes tied to the murders of several WWII vets, leading Harry into a plot that involves his country’s dark past.

Our discussion will start at 7PM on Wednesday, April 3Oth on BookPeople’s third floor. The book is 10% off for those who participate. Our co-host, Chris Mattix, is a die hard Nesbo fan, so there will be much to discuss.

MP Review: The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

If you’ve ever engaged me in a conversation about crime fiction, you know my feelings about Jo Nesbo and his Harry Hole novels. I am an unabashed champion of this series, and for good reason. My high praise for this series has a lot to do with Nesbo’s writing style and attention to detail. Often times crime fiction is plagued by the stereotype of being low-brow or kitschy, but those stereotypes ignore the deeply rooted themes carried by crime fiction. Themes like love, loss, the fear of death, and the stark realities of the world we live in are ones every reader can relate to, and authors like Jo Nesbo tackle them with grace and poise.

First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room; it’s been more than a little frustrating to be a Nesbo fan in America. The seemingly random publishing schedule for the Harry Hole novels have forced readers to experience the series out of chronological order; some of us like to read a series in order! The Redeemer is the sixth Harry Hole novel, falling in line between The Devil’s Star and The Snowman, which means fans of the series will need to wrack their brains trying to remember what took place way back when. Honestly, it’s not that hard to recall the past exploits of ne’er-do-well detective Harry Hole and Nesbo (as always) does a great job of reminding his readers without going into full on review mode. Okay, now that we’ve talked about how annoying reading series books out of order is, we can move on to the task at hand.

In The Redeemer we are taken back to the early days of Harry Hole; before the effects of age and substance abuse really started to catch up with him. The story begins with Harry having the unfortunate task of informing a family that their son, a heroin addict, has committed suicide. In typical Nesbo style, the books beginning functions as a launchpad for the events to come. The main plot line is about an assassin who has traveled to Oslo to complete a contract. Things go badly when the assassin, codenamed The Little Redeemer, discovers that the target he has eliminated is actually the brother of the intended target.

If you’ve read the other books in this series and think The Redeemer is worth skipping, you are dead wrong. This novel fills in a lot of the gaps left after The Devil’s Star and Nemesis, and is a must read if just for the sake of continuity. If the gap-filling aspect of The Redeemer isn’t enough to entice you then maybe the fact that this is also a fantastic mystery will do the trick. It has all the hallmarks of a great thriller; atmosphere, intriguing characters, plot twists aplenty, and Harry Hole’s reckless detective style.

The Redeemer also contains a lot of my favorite aspect of Nesbo’s books; a lot of time is devoted to the perspective of the antagonist. As the novels comes to a close you truly understand the motivations of each and every character, and that’s something that many crime writers choose not to do. If there’s one thing Nesbo does well it’s giving readers a holistic view of the story. All the pieces fall into place, and all of your questions are given a satisfying answer.

If you’re already a fan of this series, picking up The Redeemer should be a no-brainer. If you’ve never read a Jo Nesbo book, it’s probably not a great idea to start with The Redeemer, but luckily Vintage Books has just published the first Harry Hole novel, The Bat, as a paperback original. So run, don’t walk, to your local bookstore and get cracking on what is arguably the best detective series currently available.