Nordic Noir Books To Channel Your Inner Scandanavian Detective

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One thing I want to read more of is Nordic noir books. I accidentally read a few a long time ago, not knowing Nordic noir was even a thing, but now I want to read them on purpose.

Two people I follow on Instagram (HeyAtlasCreative and CrimeByTheBook) both love the genre and recommend them all the time which makes me want to read them even more.

These are some of the best Nordic noir books and Scandanavian crime novels out there, well-known and some less-well-known, but all worth reading.

I’ve read a few of these already but the ones I haven’t are definitely on my TBR.

But wait, what even is Nordic Noir?

Nordic noir, Scandanavian noir, or Scandi noir is a genre of crime fiction set in Scandanavian countries. They are usually told from the police/detectives’ perspective and are more dark and moody.

I think they tend to be more mystery than thriller but they definitely vary. Some of the big names in the Nordic noir game are Jo Nesbo, Ragnar Jonasson, Sara Blaedel, and Thomas Enger.

If you’re new to the genre, those would be a good place to start but this list will give you plenty of other options.

Some of these are part of a series but they can usually be read out of order, there may just be some background information that isn’t familiar. It’s easy enough to piece things together though.

  • If you’re want to listen to some of these, consider trying Audible! Righ now you can get four months for just $5.95 a month plus a $20 Audible credit. That’s a steal for Audible!  Get that Audible deal here.
  • If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd!  You can get your first month free there. You can read books and listen to audiobooks. It is unlimited (especially the reading) but if you listen to tons of new audiobooks you may be restricted after a few. I don’t listen to enough to confirm this, but I do use Scribd myself and like it a lot.
  • If you want to read more on your Kindle but don’t want to buy books, Kindle Unlimited is a wonderful option and right now you can get four months for $4.99! It’s usually $9.99 so this is a great deal. Get that deal here!

The Ice Princess

Erica Falck is returning to her hometown of Fjallbacka after her parent’s funeral where she finds the community on the brink of tragedy and the death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning.

It seems she has taken her own life when she is found frozen in a ice-cold bath with her wrists slashed. Her interest grows into an obsession as she decides to write a book about Alex.

Patrik Hedstrom is a local detective with his own suspicions about the case but the disturbing past of the town isn’t revealed until they start working together.

Snow Angels

Just before Christmas, Finnish Lapland is plunged into two weeks of darkness called Kaamos. Some get through it with the help of cheap Russian liquor and others sink into a depression. This time though, it may have driven someone mad enough to commit murder.

Inspector Kari Vaara has to find the killer of the beautiful Somali woman who was found in the snow before it’s too late. This is perfect if you’re looking for a book set in Finland that’s more along the lines of a thriller.

The Hypnotist

There is only one surviving witness of a gruesome triple homicide, the boy who watched his family die, and he can’t remember anything.

Detective Joona Linna asks for help from Erik Maria Bark, a hypnotist, but when he unlocks the memory of the boy, a terrible chain of events is set in motion.

The Fox

Guogeir Fransson is a Reykjavik police officer trying to put tragedy in his professional life behind him while resolving personal turmoil. To do this, he moved far from home to Eastern Iceland and when he hears about a foreign woman who moved to the tight-knit town and disappeared just as fast, his detective sense starts tingling.

His investigation brings him back to Reykjavik before a remote farmhouse in the mountains where he finds an elderly woman, her son, and their sinister past.

I can’t find where to buy this one anymore, unfortunately.

The Snowman

After the first snowfall of the year, Jonas wakes up to find his mother missing. Her new pink scarf is the only thing left behind and is now on the snowman that appeared in their yard earlier that day.

Inspector Harry Hole suspects a connection between her and a mysterious letter he received and things get even weirder when a pattern emerges over the past decade of women vanishing after the first snow of the year.

I just got this one and cannot wait to read it this winter. I know this is one of the best nordic noir books out there.

Death Deserved

I read this one over the summer and enjoyed it quite a bit!

Sonja never showed up to the launch of her controversial autobiography in Oslo. Later that day, Emma Ramm, a celebrity blogger, pays a visit to her house only to find signs of a struggle, a bib with the number one pinned to the TV, and no sign of Sonja.

Alexander Blix is assigned to head the investigation. He joins forces with Emma to get to the bottom of the increasing signs of Sonja and clues that are carefully calculated. Together they have to find and stop this merciless killer.

Dark Pines

It’s the first week of the Swedish elk hunt in an isolated town with the sounds of gunshots everywhere. Tuva is investigating a story that could make or break her career when she stumbles on a web of secrets knitting the town together.

She has to face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and get the story out there before getting out of Gavrik.

The Chestnut Man

A psychopath leaving behind a “chestnut man” made of matchsticks and two chestnuts is terrorizing Copenhagen. While investigating, they find a fingerprint of a government minister’s young daughter who was kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

No one is safe and two detectives have to put aside their differences to piece together the clues.

I cannot wait to read this one (got it for my birthday) and know this is also one of the best Scandinavian crime novels. It’s a Netflix show now also.

I Will Miss You Tomorrow

All Thorkild wants to do as a newly released prisoner and psychiatric hospital patient is to lose himself in drugged dreams of his beloved and gone forever Frei.

When Frei’s young cousin disappears off the Norwegian coast, he’s called in by the family to help find him, dead or alive, and he can’t refuse.

He’s already lost his reputation, will he lose his life now, too?

Marked for Life

There is no shortage of suspects in the murder of the head of the migration board, but what isn’t expected is tiny fingerprints in his child-free home.

Jana Berzelius, the steely public prosecutor, steps in to lead the investigation and she won’t be intimidated by threats. Then the body of a young boy is found on a deserted beach with the weapon that killed the official.

Her own dark childhood comes back to her when she sees familiar initials cut into his skin that screams child trafficking. To protect her own past, she has to find the killers before the police do.

Hunting Game

Embla has been plagued with nightmares for the majority of her twenty-eight years. She channels most of her anxious energy into her Detective Inspector position in the mobile unit in Gothenburg, Sweden, and sports.

She joins her family and friends on the annual moose hunt trip as a needed break from her stressful job. When they arrive, she sees a familiar face: Peter, attractive and newly divorced. A longtime hunt member also notices and doesn’t like the presence of an outsider which happens to make their group number thirteen, a bad omen for the week.

Bad things start to happen and two group members disappear. Embla takes charge of the search, delving into the dark pasts of her fellow hunters as she searches for the killer.

Snare

Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son after her messy divorce. Without much left to choose from, she starts smuggling cocaine into Iceland and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world.

As she desperately looks for a way out, she’s pitted against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer with years of experience that frustrate her and her progressively daring strategies. Things get even more complicated when she embarks on a relationship with a woman, Alga, who is a high-level bank executive being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash.

Why Did You Lie?

A journalist investigating an old case commits suicide. A couple returns from a house swap in the US and find their home in disarray with the guests seemingly missing. Four strangers are struggling to find shelter on a windswept rock in the raging sea. They all have one thing in common: they lied.

The Creak on the Stairs

In the town of Arkranes, a woman’s body is found in a lighthouse and she is no stranger to the area. After a failed relationship, Officer Elma returns to Arkranes. She and her colleagues begin an uneasy investigation that uncovers a shocking secret in the woman’s past that continues to reverberate through the present day.

As they investigate, they uncover a host of hidden crimes that shock the community. They have to find justice as they fight through shattered memories of the townspeople while they dodge increasingly serious threats.

The Keeper of Lost Causes

Carl used to be one of Denmark’s best homicide detectives but he blames himself when two fellow cops were killed and he didn’t draw his own weapon.

A promotion is the last thing he expects but Department Q is a department of one and a stack of cold cases. Colleagues snicker but Carl may have the last laugh. The file of a liberal politician who disappeared five years ago keeps nagging at him. She is presumed dead, but is she really?

I’m Traveling Alone

A six-year-old girl is found hanging, lifeless, from a tree in a strange doll’s clothes with a note that says “I’m traveling alone.

Holger Munch is at the helm of the reopened special homicide unit. His first move is to persuade Mia Kruger, a brilliant but haunted investigator to join him. She returns to duty and knows it’s only the beginning when she spots the number one carved into the girl’s fingernail.

Does this have anything to do with the child who was abducted and never found six years ago or the reclusive religious community in the woods?

They realize it’s personal when Munch’s own six-year-old granddaughter goes missing, too.

The Golden Cage

Faye has loved Jack since they were in business school. Jack is the golden boy and Faye is trying to bury a dark past. Jack needs help launching a new company so she leaves school to help him. The business is flourishing and they decide to have a baby.

Now Faye finds herself home, taking care of their daughter, wealthier than she imagined but removed from the business world. Nothing makes up for the fact that Jack is being cold to her, undermining her, when she finds out he’s having an affair.

Their life cracks open and Faye is left alone but she is set on revenge. Jack is about to get more than he ever bargained for.

The Girl Who Died

All Una wants to do is teach, but she can’t find steady employment in Reykjavik. Ringing in the new year in the small fishing village of Skalar is the price to pay to earn some teaching credentials.

One of Iceland’s most isolated villages, Skalar is home to just ten people and Una has only two students. Everyone seems to keep distant, even Thor, a man with who she shares an attraction but keeps her at arm’s length.

As darkness descends on the winter, she finds herself spending most of her time in the attic she rents which is reportedly haunted, drinking her life away.

She keeps having nightmares of a girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. A sudden tragedy is echoing an event in the town’s buried past leaving them even more distant and Una to uncover the shocking truth kept hidden for generations.

The Darkness

When a young Russian woman’s body washes up on the Icelandic shore, it’s quietly decided it was a suicide and the case is closed.

Over a year later Detective Huda Hermannsdottir is forced into retirement at 64 from the Reykjavik police, but dark memories from her past are threatening to come back and haunt her.

But before she leaves, she is given two weeks and the chance to solve and cold chase of her choice and she chooses the Russian girl who is hope for asylum was ended on the cold rocky shores.

She finds out another girl went missing at the same time and everyone seems determined to put the brakes on her investigation, but she will find the killer.

I have this series and can’t wait to read it! I also don’t want to read it because I love having it on my shelf with me haha. (I send books I’ve read back home with my parents when they visit.)

A Nearly Normal Family

Stella is standing on trial for the murder of a man almost fifteen years senior her eighteen. She’s a normal teenager from an upstanding local family, why would she kill someone?

Her family is struggling with their own moral compasses as they wonder why she is a suspect.

The Nesting

Tom Faraday is determined to finish his high-concept environmentally friendly home he’s building in Norway. It’s the same place he lost his wife, Aurelia, to suicide and he wants to honor her with their dream home.

Lexi takes a job as his nanny and falls in love his the two girls, especially Gaia. But something is off about the isolated home.

Muddy footprints appear inside, Aurelia’s diary appears in Lexi’s room, and Gaia keeps telling her about the Sad Lady. She begins to expect Aurelia didn’t kill herself and they’re all in danger of something far more sinister.

The Tenant

A young woman is stumbled upon (literally) by her elderly neighbor, murdered in her own apartment with intricate lines carved into her face.

Detectives Korner and Werner of the Copenhagen police are assigned to the case and immediately make a connection between Julie and her landlady, Esther, who happens to be writing a novel that exactly describes the way she was murdered.

Katharina Code

Katharina went missing twenty-four years ago and on the anniversary of her disappearance every year Chief Inspector William Wisting visits her husband.

He re-reads the files searching for answers he’s never found. Until now. Now another woman is missing, as is Katharina’s husband.

WIsting has to find him but is he helping a good friend or playing a deadly game?

A Grave for Two

Selma’s life as a lawyer has hit rock bottom, until Hege Chin Morell, Norway’s best female skier, approaches her to help overturn a dope charge.

With just two months until the winter Olympics, it seems like an impossible task. But after a male skier is found dead after a training accident, something more serious is at risk.

The pattern of recent crimes and ancient sins becomes undeniable as Selma races against time to find out what’s really going on.

The Missing

Greta, Alex, and Smilla take an ordinary outing across Sweden’s Lake Malice to a small, isolated island. Alex and Smilla go off into the woods while Greta waits in the boat but later she realizes they haven’t returned.

Her frantic search turns up nothing. They’ve disappeared into thin air. She struggles to understand their vanishing and is desperate to contact local authorities, but now her phone is also missing. Back home, she finds it tucked under the bedsheets.

As she struggles to put the pieces together of what happened, she worries her dark past is coming back to haunt her.

The Crow Girl

The abused body of a young boy is found in a Stockholm city park. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg is leading the investigation while battling a force unwilling to solve the murder of an immigrant child.

It becomes apparent a serial killer is at large when two more mutilated corpses are found. As they get closer to finding the truth, they also uncover evidence of an insidious evil entwined deep into Swedish society.

The Boy in the Suitcase

Nina Borg is a compulsive do-gooder and can’t say no when someone asks for help. She gets sucked into her worst project yet when an estranged friend leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station.

In it, she finds a suitcase and in that is a drugged and naked, but alive, three-year-old boy. Now she’s trekking across Denmark to find out who he is, where he belongs, and who is after him.

Blind Goddess

It all starts to come out when a small-time drug dealer is found murdered on the outskirts of Oslo. Then, a young Dutchman is found wandering around covered in blood but refuses to talk. Until he finds out the woman who discovered the body is Karen Borg, a lawyer who he demands to have as his defender.

A few days after that another lawyer is found shot to death with a coded message in their apartment. Hakon and Hanne begin investigating this and rumors of drug-dealing lawyers which helps put pieces together.

Now they know why the man insisted on having Karen Borg defend him. She’s the only Oslo lawyer that can’t be implicated in the crime.

A massive network of corruption is uncovered leading to the highest level of government.

Acts of Vanishing

Sara Sandberg was about to die. Somewhere in the cold gray hell that is Stockholm was the that called himself her father.

She had a warning for him in her backpack, but whether he would receive it or not was all down to her.

The Killing Forest

Louise is back at work in the Special Search Agency, an elite unit of the National Police Department, after an extended leave. Her first case back involves a fifteen-year-old who vanished a week ago.

Soon she realizes he’s the son of a local butcher and takes the opportunity to combine this search with her personal investigation of her boyfriend’s death long ago.

She uncovers the toxic truths and deadly connections holding the small town of Hvalsoe together.

October is the Coldest Month

Vega is just sixteen when the police come knocking on the door looking for her older brother Jakob. She hasn’t heard from him for days but needs to find him before the police do.

No one knows Jakob was involved in a terrible crime, except Vega. Because she was there too.

Snow Blind

Ari Thor is a rookie policeman on his first posting farm from his girlfriend, who is in Reykjavik, in an isolated fishing village where no one locks their doors in the fjords of Northern Iceland.

A young woman is found naked, bleeding, and unconscious in the snow and a highly esteemed writer falls to his death. Ari is dragged right into it in a community where secrets and lies are a way of life.

This is another one of the best Nordic noir books that is high on my TBR.

Faceless Killers

One morning, a small-town farmer finds his neighbors tortured and bludgeoned to death and the only clue is the woman saying “foreign” before she died.

Inspector Kurt Wallander’s personal life is in shambles and he’s leading the investigation. He and his colleagues now face violent xenophobia as they search for the killers.

The Legacy

The only person with a possible answer in this baffling murder case is the victim’s seven-year-old daughter who was found hiding in the room her mother was killed in. But now she isn’t talking.

Detective Huldar was recently promoted and is out of his depths so he turns to Freyja for help with her expertise in traumatized young people. She isn’t pleased since she already distrusts the police but she is determined to keep Margaret safe as they try to crack the clues and code from the killer.

The Witch Hunter

A bestselling author’s wife has been found dead with her face frozen in a ghastly smile, sitting at the head of an empty dining table.

At first, it looks like someone reenacting the murders from her husband’s book series but before long, Investigator Jessica Niemi realizes she’s not just looking for one killer, but dozens from a group believing in sinister witchcraft and are always one step ahead.

Bodies are piling up and she knows they won’t stop until they get what they want. Along the way, her own dark past comes up and she has to fight those in addition to the coven of killers.

Pierced

Crime reporter Henning Juul received a menacing note from Tore Pulli, a jailed extortionist convicted of a murder he says he didn’t commit, once he’s back at work after being in a fire that killed his son.

The truth has never been more important for Juul, who digs even deeper when Pulli is found dead in his prison cell. He’s convinced Pulli never would have taken his own life.

Juul strikes up a fragile partnership with Iver Gundersen, a journalist now living with his ex-wife, and uncovers an internal power struggle in the gang world. He uncovers more questions than answers and now has to find several killers who have never been more dangerous.

The Boy at the Door

Cecilia Wilborg has it all and works hard to keep it all together but one mistake from her past could ruin it all.

Annika Lucasson’s life is less perfect, living with her abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend. She’s lost everything more than once but finally has a chance to save herself, thanks to Cecilia.

Annika knows her secret and what she’s willing to do to make it disappear.

When someone forgets to pick up their little boy from the pool, Cecilia agrees to take him home and finds an abandoned and empty house. This is just the first step in unraveling her life as it collides with Annika’s.

Closed for Winter

Ove Bakkerud is ready for a quiet final weekend at his summer home before closing for the winter. However, once the tourists are gone, some less-welcome visitors show up.

His cottage is ransacked and he finds a man beaten to death next door. Police Inspector William Wisting has seen bad murders but nothing like the desperation in this latest murder.

His daughter decides to stay in one of the summer cottages, against his orders, and his unease only grows as they find several more corpses on the deserted archipelago. The whole time dead birds are dropping from the sky.

The Bird Tribunal

Allis Hagtorn, a TV presenter, leaves her partner and job for voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. Here new job as a housekeeper and gardener isn’t quite what it seems, though.

Sigurd Bagge, her 44-year-old surly employer isn’t the old man she was expecting. As they wait for his wife to return from her travels, their uneasy encounters turn into an obsessive relationship and it becomes clear atonement for past sins may not be enough.

The Ice Beneath Her

A woman is found beheaded in a posh Stockholm suburban home. It’s even more unsettling because of its resemblance to an unsolved killing ten years earlier.

This time they have a suspect: Jesper Orre, a controversial chain-store CEO and the owner of the home. In the homicide detectives’ search for answers, they turn to retired and unhappy criminal profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schon.

But they’re not the only ones searching. Emma Bohman, a young clerk at Orre’s company, had a chance to meet the charming executive two months before and romance bloomed. It was over as fast as it started when he disappeared.

As things continued to go wrong, she was certain Orre was to blame and her heartbreak turns to anger. In pursuit of the same man, their paths cross with obsession, vengeance, madness, and love gone horribly wrong.

Have you read any of these? Which ones? Any other Nordic noir I should check out?

Author: Megan Johnson

I'm Megan, a Wisconsin native currently working my way around the US. You can probably find me reading on the beach, wandering through the desert, or hanging out in a cute little coffee shop.

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