The Scandinavian crime writers seem to have a lock on noir. Their lock, however, isn’t so much about shady characters, it is about appalling weather. I just finished Henning Mankel’s, “The Fifth Woman”, and I think there was one sunny day in the month in which the book is set from mid-October to mid-November. Every day has rain, sometimes frozen, and the temperature is always bone chilling. Maybe that is why I like to read them in the summer time?
English literature in the 18th century can be said to have undergone as much a transformation during the Age of Enlightenment as the decorative arts. Even though literacy was limited, the taste for adventure among the public was vast. Books in the early 18th century, like “Robinson Crusoe” and “Tom Jones”, were books of adventure and derring-do that captured the imagination of readers. But by the end of the century, novelists like Fanny Burney and Jane Austen wrote about class and the position of the woman in society. The novel, as an art form, had clearly shifted.
Kurt Wallander, Mankel’s detective, is driven and yet whose self-doubt outstrips most of the other detectives of the genre. Harry Hole, Jo Nesbo’s errant detective, is driven by demons, doubt being one of them, but alcoholism and drug addiction also rank highly. Van Veeteren, Hakan Nesser’s ugly and irascible Detective Chief Inspector is just never wrong. Per Wahloo’s Martin Beck, is the most Sherlockian of the bunch, but is prone to colds. All of them talk about the weather and it is always depressing. Marlowe’s Los Angeles may have been the birth place for noir, but Scandinavia knows how to keep it well watered, dark and cold.