Blood on Snow and The Demon of Dakar. —  Two Excellent Scandinavian Mysteries

I love Scandinavian mysteries, and Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow and Ekjell Eriksson’s The Demon of Dakar are both excellent.  They share an almost laconic delivery that is just very satisfying to read.  The characters are interesting, and there aren’t a lot of stereotypes.

Blood on Snow, a Norwegian mystery has a very macabre set of humor. It features Olaf, a somewhat hapless hitman who has become a target himself.  There’s really not a lot more to say about this.  It is a short book and clearly written.  The author’s unconventional take on how one falls into a career as a hitman is highly entertaining.  

The Demon of Dakar  is a more complex and serious murder mystery.  Dakar combines a rich set of characters enmeshed in the drug trade.  A trio of desperately poor and relatively naive Mexican brothers gets caught up in a trafficking mess.  Manuel, the eldest brother is determined to get some justice from a  malevolent crew of sleazy Swedish dealers, and this sets the book’s central crime in motion.  I really liked a number of things about this book.  The investigation process was interesting, because the police were dealing with such an unexpected scenario.  I also found the capable, strong and utterly believable female characters to be a great strength of the book.   Their gender undeniably causes them problems, particularly on the job, but they remain focused persevere .  These women don’t have it all together, but they are responsible people — they are grown ups — so they get the job done.  I also really appreciated the author’s handling of the bewildered, yet determined Manuel’s stumbling yet effective progress through an alien environment.  

Both books are well worth reading.

Hell Fire — Karin Fossum Writes Another Great Norwegian Mystery

Hell Fire is Karin Fossum’s latest excellent murder mystery.  As usual Fossum’s story is heavy with troubled family relationships and people who are struggling.  The detectives are not partcularly quirky; they play a background role in this family tragedy.  The all consuming struggle of two single mothers trying to cope with bad circumstances and parenting challenges moves this story forward.  There isn’t a lot  of emotion to the matter-of-fact narration, but the story is well told and compelling, and I found myself thinking about it quite a bit afterward.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry — Another Wonderful Book by the Author of A Man Called Ove

Fredrik Backman, the author of the remarkable A Man Called Ove, has written another remarkable novel, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.  Told from the point of view of Elsa, a  grieving seven-year-old girl, this novel brings together an odd collection of characters who are struggling with their lives.  When Elsa loses the one person who “gets” her, she is forced to look elsewhere.   The story is in the nature of a quest, with frequent references to Harry Potter, Spider-Man and other fantasy figures.   Elsa is a remarkable, heroic child, who faces bullying and grief with a compelling mixture of stoicism and sarcasm.  This is a wonderful book!  It celebrates quirkiness, bravery, compassion and holding oneself accountable.  I loved it!

A Man Called Ove — A Wonderful Swedish Novel

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I loved everything about A Man Called Ove, a wonderful novel by the Swedish writer Fredrik Backman.  Ove is an elderly man struggling with grief.  Ove is his own greatest enemy.  He doesn’t understand other people and has contempt for all. Enter kind neighbors who refuse to take offense or leave him alone and a series of circumstances that Ove can’t avoid or stop, and there is a fine story.  It also happens to be very funny.

Saying any more risks ruining this book, so I’ll just close by saying that this book’s knowing take on the loneliness, frustrations and challenges of old age is very moving