Riga Lane
Photo of Riga by Desmond Kavanagh used under a Creative Commons license.

Henning Mankell, The Dogs of Riga (Vintage, 2004).
Mankell’s provincial Swedish detective, Kurt Wallender, investigates the deaths of two men washed ashore in a life raft. The case leads him to Riga, Latvia, where he finds himself embroiled in something larger. The novel is set against a backdrop of political change and instability in Latvia in 1991, when the Berlin Wall had come down and the country was struggling to escape Russia’s orbit.

Here is a biography of Mankell on his official website. Here is a page about the book on a fan site.  Google BookSearch has a preview. Blogger jborras4 has a shorter passage. Jane Jakeman (The Independent) calls it atmospheric and gripping fiction, never mind the middle-aged male anxieties. Sue Magee says the tension is palpable.  Listen to Maureen Corrigan’s review for Fresh Air. Andris Straumanis at Latvians Online says that for a reader familiar with recent Latvian history, it’s fascinating to see Mankell depict the calm before the storm. Comparing it to Mankell’s more traditional police procedurals, Simon Quicke was somewhat underwhelmed. S.E. Smith says it’s dark and creepy. Payal Dhar thinks it’s compelling and suspenseful. Kate S. was utterly satisfied. Dorothy says it also offers a lot to think about. But Ken Wedding wasn’t blown away, and Norwegian blogger Moonknight was even more disappointed.  Maxine has Joe Queenan writing about the Nordic Mystery Boom, and another Maxine (or the same?) follows up at Petrona.

Buy it at Amazon.

Tattoo Art Fest
Photo by philippe leroyer used under a Creative Commons license.

Stieg Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Knopf, 2008).
Mikael Blomkvist is a disgraced financial journalist, convicted on libel charges to which he did not offer a defense. Lisbeth Salander is a tattooed and a social private investigator, a hacker and an orphan. Before long, Larsson has them both working to solve a decades-old mystery, the disappearance of a teenaged scion of a wealthy family of Swedish industrialists. The plot is ever so much more complicated, but Blomkvist and Salander are equal to the task.  Many of the locations are real, but much happens in a fictitious town on the coast of Norrland.

Here is Wikipedia’s page about Larsson, who died suddenly before the book was published. Here is the official Larsson site. Reg Keeland, the translator, has a new blog. NPR has this excerpt. Here are reviews — beware of spoilers! Joan Smith (The Times) says it deserves most of the hype. Maxine Clarke (Euro Crime) very much enjoyed it. Maureen Corrigan (Fresh Air) liked it. Jonathan Gibbs (The Independent) says it never feels like a by-the-numbers thriller. John Baker says it’s a strange novel; like me, he was unable to put it down. Neither could Pop Culture Nerd. Alex Berenson (The New York Times) thinks it ends blandly. The Complete Review calls it a very good second-rate novel; they also link to many reviews I don’t. Here are more links. Graham Beattie says, what a triumph. Rebecca thinks it defies the cliches of its genre. Sharon Wheeler sees a stunning achievement. Sue Arnold (The Guardian) says Larsson threatens to knock Henning Mankell off his throne. Peter calls it another great Swedish crime novel. Larissa Kyzer (3%) sees a critique of Sweden’s social-welfare state. Macy Halford chatted with New Yorker colleagues about the book. Barbara Fister locates some neat parallels. Myron really enjoyed it. WhereDunnit mapped locations in the book. Keith says it’s a fine one. Tom Cunliffe thought it too long. Semi Dweller says, believe the hype. Kerrie says it deserves the accolades. Pat Gray says it will keep you riveted. Material Witness writes about on-line debates about the book. Mack links to reviews he liked. Likewise, Maxine has all sorts of good links. Anuradha Sengupta says Lisbeth is the real hero. Martin Edwards sees a fascinating and innovative blend of story lines.  Marg liked the plot’s complexity. Gwen Dawson thought it was a little too long. Cate Ross wasn’t overwhelmed. Nor was John Talbott. PopinFresh loved it. S. Krishna’s expectations were surpassed. Lit*Chick has a clip of an interview with Knopf’s Sonny Mehta. Martha Woodroof reported for NPR on how it became a U.S. bestseller. And you can watch the trailers for the forthcoming movie! There are many more reviews out there — please feel free to link to good ones in the comments.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

Photo of Scania by Nicolas Masse used under a Creative Commons license.

Henning Mankell, Faceless Killers (Vintage Crime, 2003).
Kurt Wallender is a detective in the Swedish province of Scania, in the very southern end of the country. Called upon to investigate the brutal murder of an elderly couple on a rural farm, a murder without an apparent motive, Wallender finds himself confronting Swedish anxiety about immigration. Mankell does not hurry things, leaving plenty of time to absorb Wallender’s surroundings. Originally published in Sweden in 1997, and the first of several novels featuring Wallender.

Here is the bio at Mankell’s website. Here’s a bio from Meekalee. Nicci Gerrard (The Observer) interviews Mankell. Ian Thomson (The Guardian) profiles him. Angel L. Soto calls it a pleasure to read. Sue Magee was hooked right from the beginning. Orin Judd gives it a B+. Terry gives it a B-. According to martin, Mankell hadn’t hit his stride yet. Leila Roy begs to differ. dovegreyreader’s first encounter with Wallender went well.  But Becky didn’t like it. Anders Hanson read it because it’s set in Sweden. Julius Lester wonders how to live in the new. Jonathan Bart was reminded of several other authors. The Book Fiend liked the sedate pace.

Buy it at Amazon.com.