Mysteries In Translation: A Nordic And Scandanavian Author Invasion!

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, which as most people know was imported from Sweden, has become an American phenomenon. So it’s no surprise that readers are anxious to get their hands on more novels from authors overseas.

To feed this demand, Grand Central Publishing is teaming up with Little, Brown Book Group U.K. for a new joint-publishing venture. Together, they plan to acquire and publish six mysteries in the crime, suspense and thriller subgenres which will be translated for American readers. The new project will be headed up by a director from each country.

Dan Mallory, the U.K. program director from Little, Brown said, “In recent years, fiction in translation, especially genre fiction, has enjoyed increased market pull in the English-speaking world. Now, in tandem with Grand Central, we're pleased to offer an utterly unique opportunity within English-language publishing: the chance for foreign writers to be published throughout the English-speaking world by a single company. In an increasingly globalized market, an author's international profile is more valuable than ever, and our new venture will enable us to coordinate our efforts and expertise in order to build those profiles and power those authors to brand status around the world.”

The Swedish cover of Dark Secrets by Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt. We can't wait to see what the U.S. cover looks like!

The companies have already contracted for their first book, Dark Secrets which was co-written by Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt. The book introduces readers to psychological profiler Sebastian Bergman, and has already found great success. The story is already a bestseller in Sweden and has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide.

This trend of looking for crime stories abroad was undoubtedly brought on by Larsson’s massive success. His Milennium series quickly climbed the American bestseller lists after the books were translated. The series first, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, debuted at number 4 on the New York Times bestseller list when it was published in America in 2008. The entire series would go on to break sales records and spawn two movie series (one here and one abroad). Just two years after the beginning of the Larsson invasion, the author’s popularity made him the second author to break one million e-books sold back in 2010, according to publisher Alfred A. Knopf.

Since then Larsson certainly hasn’t been the only European import on the shelves of mystery sections here in America. There has been an undeniable influx of writers from Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. Americans have flocked to the writing of Larsson’s fellow Swedes, Henning Mankell and Lars Kepler. Meanwhile, Icelandic authors Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir are also making waves, as is Norway's Jo Nesbø. Danish authors have also left their mark on American readers. Peter Hoeg’s 1995 novel Smilla’s Sense of Snow climbed the bestseller lists almost two decades ago, while RT Managing Editor Liz has high praise for Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis’ co-written suspense. She says, “If you haven’t read The Boy in the Suitcase, you should read it. The first 50 to 75 pages you’ll be saying, ‘What, should I pay attention to this?’ but the complex and disorienting story is phenomenal.”

These stories that merge elements of suspense and crime often feature a conscienceless killer pitted against a lone investigator. This seems surprising considering that these countries have some of the lowest crime rates in the world. However, some hypothesize that these authors' countries of origin are part of what makes the stories so good. While discussing Scandinavian mysteries, Slates Wendy Lesser suggests,  “Perhaps we can attribute this in part to the small size of these far northern countries, their relatively homogeneous populations, their stable cultural traditions — a setting, in short, in which murders (and especially serial murders) stand out starkly and beg for analysis.” And these authors’ stories certainly deliver chilling murderous fiends that are great fodder for the imagination (or nightmares) of their readers

And it’s not just the Nordic and Scandinavian authors who are getting a second look after Larsson’s success. Authors are popping up — and getting a second look from American publishers — all over the world. Notes RT’s Senior Editor and Reviews Coordinator Stephanie, “The Internet has made the world smaller in the best possible ways. I read blogs and Twitter feeds written by people all over the world — of course I also want to read books set outside of English-speaking countries! And I know I'm not alone. Genre fiction readers are always happy to find a good story. More books in translation just means more stories for all of us.” And that’s certainly something we’re in favor of.

If you’ve breezed through the authors we mentioned from Larsson’s part of the world, Stephanie suggests you mark your calendar for The Thief  by Fuminori Nakamura, which will be released by Soho Crime this March. She says, “The author has won a number of awards in Japan and his story about an anonymous pickpocket getting caught up in a dangerous misadventure sounds like a winner.”