Riel’s Resin (Denmark), Lier Horst’s The Katharina Code (Norway), and translated fiction on the up!

I’ve been reading lots of Scandi crime fiction in preparation for the Petrona Award judges’ meeting, which is coming up soon. As ever, the quality has been impressively high. Two I’ve read recently and really liked are Ane Riel’s Resin and Jørn Lier Horst’s The Katharina Code.

Ane Riel, Resin, translated by Charlotte Barslund (Doubleday 2018)

First line: ‘The white room was completely dark when my dad killed my granny’.

I’m oddly pleased that Riel is a Danish writer. While Denmark seems to have a knack of turning out fabulous TV crime dramas – first and foremost The Killing – it hasn’t been quite so hot in terms of its crime fiction. So reading this very interesting novel has felt like a treat.

Resin can’t exactly be termed a conventional crime novel, but as the first line shows, there’s a crime at the heart of the novel, and it is explored, at least in part, through the eyes of a little girl named Liv. Riel expertly pieces together the events that led to the crime, and in the process tells the story of a family that has turned inwards with tragic consequences. I particularly liked the way the story was narrated from a number of different perspectives within the family, and what it had to say about love, social isolation and the importance of community.

Jørn Lier Horst, The Katharina Code, translated by Anne Bruce (Penguin, 2018)

First line: ‘The three cardboard boxes were stored at the bottom of the wardrobe.’

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I’m already a huge fan of Lier Horst’s ‘Inspector Wisting’ series, one of which, The Caveman, won the Petrona Award in 2016. Can he make it a double?!

The Katharina Code contains one of my favourite things – a really gripping cold case. Every year, Wisting gets out his notes on the disappearance of Katharina Haugen, who vanished from her house 24 years earlier, leaving only a mysterious ‘code’ on the kitchen table, ‘a series of numbers arranged along three vertical lines’. Soon, a new lead in another missing persons case will get him thinking about Katharina’s case in a radically different way. Beautifully written, as ever, this is a thoroughly entertaining and absorbing read.

If you’d like to see all the eligible titles for the Petrona, then take a stroll over to Euro Crime, where Karen has put together a lovely list.

In other news – it’s heartening to hear that sales of translated fiction are booming in the UK, in spite of (or perhaps even because of) Brexit. Overall sales of translated fiction are up by 5.5%, with more than 2.6m books sold, whose value is £20.7m. You can read more in Alison Flood’s piece over at The Guardian – ‘Translated fiction enjoys sales boom as UK readers flock to European authors’ – which also notes that Chinese and Arabic translations are doing well. One of the biggest sellers is our very own Norwegian crime-writing powerhouse Jo Nesbø.

And finally… In an odd twist of fate, Brexit has led me to try my hand at fiction for the very first time. Who’d have thunk it? In any case, I’ve written a darkly humorous crime story called ‘Your Nearest Brexit’, which is available here (under a pen name). It was great fun to write, and, as a reviewer of many years standing, I’ve learned a lot about life on the other side of the fence! All profits are going to the ‘Led By Donkeys’ billboard campaign, which is very wittily and effectively holding certain UK politicians to account.

16 thoughts on “Riel’s Resin (Denmark), Lier Horst’s The Katharina Code (Norway), and translated fiction on the up!

    • Thanks, G. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and can’t quite work out why he’s not taken off more in the UK. I think this one is a cracker – hope you enjoy!

  1. How exciting you’ve written some fiction. Just now getting my copy! Can’t wait to read it. You and the other Petrona judges will have quite a time choosing among this year’s eligibles, I think. Lots and lots of good stuff out there. I hope you’ll enjoy the reading, ‘though I don’t envy you having to choose, Mrs. P.

    • Thank you, Margot – you’re phenomenally supportive, and I really appreciate that!

      Being a Petrona judge is such a treat. We have so many riches to choose from that the process never fails to feel enjoyable. Having fabulous co-judges also helps 🙂

      • I also meant to add: I’m not quite sure how much ‘local’ context you need when reading ‘My Nearest Brexit’, but I hope you enjoy it either way 😀

  2. Good morning Mrs P. I blame my fascination with Scandi crime fiction solely at the feet of Henning Mankell’s Wallander. Followed close behind by Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole. I’ve read many since, most of which I’ve enjoyed, a couple I haven’t. Insp. Wisting is a favourite too, so I’ll have no hesitation in ‘Kindling up’ The Katherina Code.
    So, you’ve turned your hand to writing as well. I will definitely pick that one up too, and can’t wait to read it.
    Good luck with choosing books for the Pretrona Award. That’s a job and a half, and rather you than me 😮….but I suppose someone’s got to do it 😊.

    • Morning, Kathryn! It all started with Mankell for me too (still one of my favourite series), and I think one of the reasons I like Lier Horst’s work is because has something Mankell’s thoughtfulness about him – both are very intelligent writers. I hope you enjoy The Katharina Code!

      As for the writing: I honestly never imagined I’d feel the urge to write anything, and was very surprised when the story popped out! It was hugely enjoyable to write (possibly a form of solace in these troubled times) 🙂

      I’m looking forward to the Petrona meeting very much. I think we have around 40 titles to discuss this year, and it’s always a pleasure. We’ll post the shortlist anon…

  3. Well I’m more than happy to buy your work, especially in support of the utterly splendid LedByDonkeys! I look forward to reading it, probably starting tonight.

      • Not only did it raise a smile, so does LedByDonkeys. I love what they’re doing and would urge anyone who thinks that Brexit is idiotic to support their work.

  4. Dear Mrs P.
    Your Nearest Brexit is wonderfully refreshing. Thank you for providing a much needed bit of hilarity in the midst of Brexit misery.

  5. Thanks so much for these recommendations. I am eager to see the Petrona short list. Is it being posted soon?

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