One Long Winter


Norwegian Maurits Hansen writes Mordet på Maskinbygger Roolfsen two years before Edgar Allan Poe supposedly invents detective fiction with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” But Hansen never catches on.


Lisbeth Salander as played by Noomi Rapace.Photo: Courtesy of Music Box Films

Communist journalists Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö fall in love, decide to expose Sweden’s cold capitalist heart by pioneering the Nordic procedural with Roseanna, the first of ten Martin Beck mysteries. Wahlöö dies in 1975, just after handing in the last book.


Matti Joensuu, a Helsinki investigator, crafts a Finnish take on the procedural—darker and more focused on the evil residing in human nature. (Finland today leads the region in murder, suicide, and death metal.)


Despite Sweden’s growing dominance, it’s Dane Peter Høeg who publishes the region’s biggest U.S. seller of the nineties, Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Fans of Stieg Larsson’s goth sleuth might recognize sensitive Smilla. “The traumatic childhood, the hybrid status,” says Scandinavian-lit scholar Andrew Nestingen. “To me, Larsson stole Lisbeth Salander from there.”


Faceless Killers, the first of the novels in Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series (begun in 1991) is translated into English. After he becomes a household name, Mankell co-founds the film company Yellow Bird to adapt his books. It’s since produced work by Larsson and Jo Nesbø.


Stieg LarssonPhoto: Jan Collsioo/Scanpix Sweden/AP Photo

Stieg Larsson, a left-wing journalist, dies just before his first book is published. Bought in the U.S. by Knopf, the Lisbeth Salander trilogy is not only the culmination of many Nordic trends in detective fiction—feminism, politics, and perversity—it also sells better than any Nordic crime series ever has: over 50 million copies, 17 million in the U.S. alone.


Liza Marklund becomes the second Swedish writer to top the Times’ best-seller list, albeit for a book co-written with James Patterson. That same year, Knopf buys four books by Nesbø. After The Snowman is released on May 10, we’ll know if Larsson was just a fluke or the start of a massive American crime wave.

One Long Winter