It’s Scandi time! Mankell’s An Event in Autumn, Indridason’s Reykjavic Nights and BBC4’s Crimes of Passion

This week, I’ve shared my evenings with two of my favourite Scandi authors, Henning Mankell (Sweden) and Arnaldur Indridason (Iceland).

A *beautiful* cover, don’t you think?

Henning Mankell’s An Event in Autumn (trans. by Laurie Thompson/Harvill Secker, 2014) was originally written for a Dutch crime event and adapted for an episode of Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander in 2012. This beautifully packaged work is now published for the first time in English, and in terms of its chronology, is set just before the last novel in the series, The Troubled Man.

The book is described as a novella by the publisher and in accordance with that genre, is a little shorter than a novel. I can’t help wondering if Mankell’s title pays homage to Goethe’s view of the novella as focusing on ‘eine sich ereignete unerhörte Begebenheit’ (literally ‘an unheard of event that has taken place’ or more idiomatically ‘an unprecedented event’). Murder does fit that definition very nicely indeed.

The narrative opens in October 2002. Wallander is about to make an offer on a house when he discovers something dodgy in the garden: a long-ago crime has literally been unearthed and the policeman, with the help of daughter Linda, feels compelled to investigate, in a typically nuanced and engrossing tale. My favourite line: ‘It struck Wallander that nothing could make him as depressed as the sight of old spectacles no one wanted any more’ (p. 51).

Any hopes that more Wallander novels might be forthcoming are dashed in a little afterward by Mankell, so fans of the series had better savour this last work. However, there is an added bonus in the form of an essay by the author entitled ‘How it started, how it finished, and what happened in between’. Lots of lovely insights for the melancholy Ystad detective’s fans.

An Event in Autumn is published by Harvill Secker on 4. September 2014. With thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy.

As if that wasn’t enough, I then received a copy of Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik Nights in the post (trans. by Victoria Cribb/Harvill Secker, 2014). I’d been hugely looking forward to this prequel to the ‘Murder in Reykjavik’ series and was barely able to put it down: it’s a wonderfully absorbing read that traces Erlendur’s journey from young policeman to detective as he investigates the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of a young woman. Set in 1974, the year Iceland celebrated 1100 years of settlement, we are given new insights into Erlendur’s character and how a traumatic childhood event will shape both his personal life and investigative career.

As was the case with Mankell’s The PyramidReykjavic Nights is a great introduction for new readers to the series. Alternatively, for those of us who have already had the pleasure, it provides a valuable context in which to place the ‘later’ works. Mr. Indridason, if you’re reading this, please do feel free to add some more… Takk fyrir!

Reykjavic Nights is published by Harvill Secker on 18. September 2014. With thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy. If you’re interested in Icelandic crime, then Iceland Noir, which takes place in Reykjavik from 20-23 November 2014, is also worth checking out.

And finally, some important BBC4 Saturday evening crime news. Today, 30th August 2014, sees the start of a new six-part Swedish series based on the 1950s novels of Maria Lang (the pseudonym of Dagmar Lange, a well known and prodigious crime author). The first episode of Crimes of Passion, entitled ‘Death of a Loved One’ airs at 9.00pm. The BBC4 summary is as follows:

>> Puck Ekstedt is invited by her university tutor to celebrate midsummer at his summer house on a secluded island, together with a group of friends including Einar Bure. Puck and Einar (Eje for short) are secretly courting and he is the reason she accepts the invitation. The summer nights are seductively beautiful until Puck finds one of the female guests murdered. Einar contacts his best friend Christer Wijk, a police inspector, to investigate. In the meantime, they are trapped on the island – and someone among them is a killer. <<

The series has been described as Mad Men meets The Killing. This sounds a bit too good to be true, but I will reserve judgement until this evening. You can see a short clip from the first episode on the BBC4 website.

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30 thoughts on “It’s Scandi time! Mankell’s An Event in Autumn, Indridason’s Reykjavic Nights and BBC4’s Crimes of Passion

  1. Thanks for this post, filled with Scandi goodies. I love me a bit of Erlendur in particular, he is so wonderfully gloomy. There was a great film based on Jar City, did you ever see it? Think it had a different title, but for me it captured the whole gloomy thing wonderfully Best wishes Blighty

    • You’re welcome, Blighty – I think you’ll really enjoy Reykjavik Nights as an established Erlendur fan. I did see Jar City and thought it very good (the Icelandic title was Mýrin, meaning ‘the bog’, and apparently that was also the original title of the book). I’ve never checked to see if there were any more adaptations from the series. One for the list…

  2. Mrs. P – Thanks as ever for thoughtful and terrific reviews. I’m so glad you enjoyed this reads. It is sad to know that the Wallander series is ended. On the other hand, you never know; perhaps your plea will be successful and there will be more from Inspector Erlendur…

  3. Hi Mrs P, glad you enjoyed the new Erlendur book, I’m releaved it’s up to his usuall standards, just waiting for my copy from Amazon. The film based on ‘Jar City’ is well worth seeing if you’ve not caught it yet. It’s seems anything set in the 50/60s seems to be compared with ‘Mad Men’ most are rubbish! They usually Refering to the look. This particular programme was reviewed on Front Row
    didn’t get a good review, I shall avoid! Anyway The last series of Broadwalk Empire starts next week.
    Have you read any of the books by the Italian author Marco Vichi? They all seem to be set in Florance in the 60s, I’ve just got Death in Floraance, which I’ll start after I’ve finished ‘Off Minor’
    the 3rd or 4th Resnick novel. I’m also reading Peter Gilmours ‘ In pursuit of Italy’ an excellent history of Italy, I highly recommend it, really great read.

    • I did indeed, Brian – hope you like it too. I was saying to Blighty above that I have seen Jar City and liked it very much. It caught Erlendur very well, sheep’s brains and all!

      I haven’t read any novels by Vichi, but I think I have a copy on my shelf which I’ll try to dust down soon. My latest Italian reading has been Marco Malvaldi’s Three-Card Monte, the second in the Bar Lume series, featuring barman-detective Massimo Viviani, aided by his grandfather and septuagenarian friends. Very gentle and genuinely funny. It’s published in the Europa Editions World Noir series (which is a bit ironic as it’s not really noir). The Gilmour sounds very interesting – thanks!

      • Marco Malvaldi’s books are light. I like them because he’s an ex-researcher (chemistry) who started writing a bit for fun a bit as pastime. When his research funding ran out, he tried the writer career. (Long story short…) He lives outside Pisa, 10 minutes from my town. The crimes are never too complicated; what is funny is the caricature of old Tuscan men, chatting and gossiping at the bar. It’s a rather accurate depiction of certain characters one might still encounter in small towns and villages here. He also writes using phrases from the Tuscan dialect, and being Tuscan myself, his writing makes me laugh 😉
        I didn’t know he was translated in English too. That’s quite something!
        If you get a chance, look for a book he wrote about Pisa. He tells short stories and anecdotes tourist guides often omit or misreport.
        Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to the 2 books you mention and keep fingers crossed Crimes of Passion will soon be showed in Italy too.
        Tack för dina tipsar! 😉

      • Thanks for that context, Sara and gern geschehen. As you probably know, the second novel involves an academic conference on macromolecular chemistry, which makes perfect sense now; as do the rather acidic comments on postgraduate life! I love the lightness of the series (light but not insubstantial), and the characterisation. The narrative perspective of a Japanese academic who’s drunk too many expressos is priceless 🙂 Two translated now as far as I’m aware. And thanks, I’ll keep an eye out for his book on Pisa. Quite a coincidence that this is so close to you!

  4. Very much looking forward to reading both those books. I was disappointed by Crimes of Passion last night. Old-fashioned and not in a good way. The characters seemed flimsy and stereotypical to me.

    • Yes, Crimes of Passion was a bit bonkers, wasn’t it? The Agatha Christie feel was fine, but the narrative was overly melodramatic for my taste. And I couldn’t keep up with all the musical beds stuff. Only enjoyable if not taken too seriously…

  5. I’m glad to read about Mankell’s and Indridason’s new books. And Crimes of Passion; hope it gets here soon.
    Just saw Injustice last night, a BBC five-part series with a lawyer who means business. Very riveting, got me up all night.
    And if you missed The Escape Artist, a BBC production, with David Tennant and Sophie Okanodu, see it. It is a brilliant cat-and-mouse legal and psychological thriller. Incredible.
    I have to see it again soon. The acting is a pleasure to watch.

    • Thanks, Kathy. Treats in store for you with Mankell and Indridason, but not quite so sure about Crimes of Passion – it was nice-looking and enjoyable, but in a daft sort of way.

      Thanks very much for the recommendations. Two for me to catch up with there. I’ve just bought Broadchurch with David Tennant and Olivia Coleman. I must be the only person in the UK who hasn’t seen this yet. Looking forward to seeing it soon!

  6. Broadchurch is very good. Tennant and Coleman are excellent, very down-to-earth and believable. Enough red herrings in the plot to feed a dinner party of 20. Not a lot of gore at all, character-driven.
    The Escape Artist is a must-see. The acting is brilliant! I hope Tennant and Okonedo get awards for their acting. Don’t plan on doing anything while watching this. Friends who aren’t mystery devotees thought it superb.
    I keep saying to them that this is what good mysteries are like; that’s why we fans read and watch them. Now, if only U.S. TV could do as good a job on scripts and actors.

    • Broadchurch sounds right up my street. Just waiting for a couple of clear nights so that I can watch it in two sessions! Will line up the Escape Artist when I get the chance…

      It’s funny, but here we often see the US as the pinnacle of great scripts and acting: The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad and so on. Neither side doing too badly I reckon!

  7. Hi Mrs P, finished the new Indridason yesterday brilliant, what was I worried about! Although not a fan of prequels, he really pulls it off. How many authors can right about the mundane & make it really interesting, not for him global terrorism or car chases, just great stories & characters. Also another name check for Sjowall & Wahloo,not surprised he, like LGP is a fan. Ending rather interesting, is it a lead in for another book?
    Have just started the new Webster looking forward to getting in to that this weekend!… Just to finish something that has nothing to do with books, although it could be called a crime! Was in John Lewis in Nottm this morning, & there was all there Xmas stuff laid out for sale trees, decorations etc, 27/09/14. Pathetic!!!

    • Hi Brian – I’m SO glad that you liked Reykjavik Nights. I loved it too, and as far as I’m concerned he can write as many prequels as he likes. With a writer of that quality I will never get bored, and I completely agree about the absorbing nature of the characters and the story. There’s something about having known the later Arnaldur that deepens what we’re told about the young Arnaldur as well.

      All the Xmas stuff is nonsense, isn’t it? I have no desire to live continually in the future, as companies would like you to (always planning for the next big event by buying lots of their product). I’m far more interested in the here and now, thanks!

  8. Totally agree on both points!.. Just been on amazon to see if I can get my annual October LG Perssson fix, & there it is The Dying Detective’, but no real info, just a date of 9/10/14, no price or pre order, was wondering if that’s a US release date? Have you heard any whispers?

  9. Let’s hope so, off to London on the 23/10 for a couple of days so would be great to read then. Interestingly on amazon the next Backstrom, out 26/2/15 is available for pre-order!
    A new JC Wagner would be nice as well!

    • Hello Brian. Well, you’re going to be jealous, because I’ve just received an advance copy of >Falling Freely, as in a Dream<. The press release says that it's due out on 19 October. I'm sure I won't be able to keep my hands off it for long!

  10. Lucky you, very jealous indeed I take it you mean The Dying Detective, not Falling Freely etc! Don’t wait go for it. Great news if it’s the 19th should be able to get it before I go to London.
    Enjoying ‘Blood Med’, have you read it yet?

  11. Very much enjoyed “Reykjavik Nights”, especially after I finally got to visit Iceland. Amazing scenery and the City Of Literature walk is definitely one to do, if you go there. On return I read Hannah Kent’s “Burial Rites” which is a fictionalised account of the real life crime of Agnes Magnusdottir in the early 1820s. It has deservedly won prizes all over, and I thoroughly recommend it to all crime lovers and those who are not crime lovers!

    As always the stack of “Books to be Read” looms large so I am only just getting round to books noted in my diary from visit to Oslo for their Crime Literature Festival in March . (excellent and varied events) Anyone know anything about Delores Redondo please? My notes were done in haste, so I am not sure whether she writes in norwegian/english/spanish???????

    • I’m glad you enjoyed Reykjavik Nights, Lynne. As it happens, I’m going to the Icelandic Noir convention in November and am hugely looking forward to visiting the country for the first time. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing as well, so thanks for the City of Literature tip.

      I have Burial Rites on my shelf waiting to be read. I’ve heard lots of very good things about it, so am looking forward to that too. Perhaps one to take along for the ride?

      I’m afraid I don’t know Delores Redondo as yet. Wonderful name, and will try to find out more…

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