The Hummel case has bothered William Wisting for more than six months. The investigation into what happened when taxi-driver Jens Hummel disappeared has been fruitless, and he has to endure criticism. A crucial discovery directs suspicion at Dan Roger ‘Danny’ Brodin.
The problem is, however, that Danny is already in prison, convicted of another murder. Wisting is accustomed to building up a solid case for the prosecution, but this time things are different. Now he has to use all his expertise and experience to unpick a case that other people already believe to be over and done with. He follows his own convictions – all the way into the courtroom.
Today I’m part of the ongoing blog tour for Ordeal by Jorn Lier Horst, published by Sandstone Press on 17th March, and the fifth in the William Wisting series to be translated into English. This book is already gathering some quite wonderful reviews: do visit some of the other stops on the tour to see some of them.
Most of you already know that crime has never really been my natural milieu, but even I’ve heard of Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir. So when she says that Jorn Lier Horst “writes some of the best Scandinavian crime fiction available. His books are superbly plotted and addictive, the characters superbly realised. I cannot wait for the next…”, I realised I was offering my support to something rather special.
Mindful of my woeful ignorance about the subject – which I think I really should be calling Nordic Noir – I asked Jorn Lier Horst if he’d like to write a guest blog about the appeal of the wider genre and where Ordeal fitted in. I’m delighted to report that he agreed…
The Scandinavian approach to writing crime novels is becoming increasingly popular. However, the reason for the genre’s popularity is a great mystery. Of course, it is undeniably surprising that authors from countries pointed out as some of the most peaceful and contented places to live, are able to write in such a fascinating way about brutality and murder.
Seen from within, it is difficult on the whole to see that geographical divisions warrant the collective term Nordic Noir. Crime novels and thrillers written in this corner of the world are extremely varied in both form and content.
Some believe that readers are fascinated by Nordic melancholy, shaped by winter darkness, the midnight sun and vast, barren landscapes. Others think it has to do with a lost paradise. A description of a social-democratic, well-functioning society attacked from within by violence and killings, and imbued with eeriness.
In my now numerous encounters with foreign crime fiction readers, I have tried to find an answer to this mystery. They consider Nordic crime novels to be more sophisticated and mention how, through these books, they have discovered crime fiction to be more than sheer superficial entertainment. Nordic crime represents something different from the age-old stream of indifferent, uniform crime publications supplied to readers. The writers have higher ambitions and inject their individual vitality and quality into the genre.
Nordic crime novels are all very different when it comes to descriptions of setting, characters, language, plot and action. Nonetheless they are felt to be similar by readers in the rest of the world. Admittedly, we are a region with a shared history and traditions, as well as several common features with regard to social structures and welfare, in addition to political and value systems.
Ordeal is my most recent contribution to the genre. It is a classic Scandinavian crime novel in the broadest understanding of the category: a police procedural about a justice system that gives honourable promises about being protective and just, but fails in this aspiration all the same.
Trial by ordeal was the method of deciding court cases in mediaeval times. The accused had to lick a red-hot spoon taken straight from the flames, and then the priest would examine his tongue to interpret signs left there by the gods. Guilty or innocent? The wounds on the tongue were what decided and distinguished between life and death. You might believe the justice system has changed since that time, but it is still a matter of interpreting signs and putting a meaning on what we see. And everything is not as it seems.
Thank you Jorn Lier Horst, and I wish you every success with Ordeal. At the time of writing, the kindle version is available for £1 – but do check before you click. My thanks to author Sarah Ward for the introduction, and to Keara Donnachie at Sandstone Press for organising the guest blog and the support materials.
Meet the author
Jorn Lier Horst is one of Norway’s most experienced police investigators, but also one of Scandinavia’s most successful crime writers. He writes engaging and intelligent crime novels that offer an uncommonly detailed and realistic insight into the way serious crimes are investigated, as well as how both police and press work. His literary awards include the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize, the Riverton Prize (Golden Revolver), the Scandinavian Glass Key and the prestigious Martin Beck Award.