Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden Since 1967. By Mitzi M. Brunsdale. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016. 563 p. $65 (ISBN 978-0-7864-7536-0). E-book available (978-1-4766-2277-4), call for pricing.

Thanks to the Kurt Wallander novels of Henning Mankell, the Lisbeth Salander novels of Stieg Larsson, and their motion picture and television adaptations, crime fiction by Finnish and Scandinavian writers has soared in popularity with American readers over the past few years. In her Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction, Mitzi M. Brunsdale sets out to survey the growing field while offering a historical analysis of its development and importance. She argues that the region’s crime fiction “largely deals with the serious societal problems resulting from originally well-intentioned Nordic welfare state policies now proving problematic,” and believes that it “has enormous relevance to today’s dangerous world” (1).

The work is divided into five main sections, with one section each devoted to Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Each opens with a thorough discussion of the cultural context of that nation’s crime fiction, followed by tabulations of the country’s crime fiction awards and short, parallel chronologies of historical and literary events inside and outside the country. The bulk of each section is then taken up with alphabetically arranged entries on individual writers and their works.

Although Brunsdale evaluates the entire chronological range of Nordic crime fiction, she concentrates on the period beginning with 1967, the year in which the first volume of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s groundbreaking Martin Beck series appeared in English translation. All in all she discusses some 350 writers, including a large number whose works have not yet been translated into English and a few writing in other languages who have set their novels in the region. The book concludes with an extensive list of works cited and an index.

Although the past decade has seen the publication of several studies of Nordic crime fiction, Brunsdale’s ambitious encyclopedia appears to be the first on the subject designed specifically for reference. Given its broad coverage and impressive level of detail, it is highly recommended for collections dealing with popular culture and European literature. It may also prove useful in readers’ advisory services, although in such situations its inclusion of untranslated authors may cause some frustration.—Grove Koger, retired reference librarian, independent scholar, Boise, Idaho


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