- Kriminallitteratur. Utveckling. Genre. Perspektiv
International interest in Scandinavian crime fiction continues to be strong, with a large contingent of authors translated into English and other languages every year. There is also a substantial international contingent of scholars oriented toward its interpretation. In contrast, research on the genre by scholars based in Scandinavian and Sweden has been relatively limited. Kerstin Bergman and Sara Kärrholm seek to remedy this [End Page 461] oversight. Their co-written book Kriminallitteratur is indeed the first comprehensive and substantial book in Swedish on the topic in some time. Conceived as a textbook for use in Swedish introductory literature courses and as an aid to a general reader, the volume still has quite a bit to offer also those who may be familiar both with Nordic Noir and the field of crime fiction studies generally.
Organized in twelve thematically oriented chapters, half of which are attributed to either co-author, and a brief co-written introduction, the book covers a number of aspects. These include general historical overviews of international and Swedish crime fiction as well as chapters devoted to specific subgenres. These include discussions of the hard-boiled, police procedural, locked-room/puzzle, thriller, and youth and children-oriented subgenres. Chapters generally contain references to and discussions of both international (primarily Anglo-American and European) and Swedish versions. All chapters include an extensive bibliography and a list with suggestions for further fiction reading.
For readers of Scandinavian Studies, Bergman's chapter on Swedish crime fiction may be particularly relevant. Her presentation includes a useful overview of the development of the genre in Sweden, including discussions of both well-known authors (Stieg Trenter, Maria Lang, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Jan Guillou, Henning Mankell) and lesser-known representatives. Interspersed with the general presentation, Bergman includes more focused discussion of specific characteristics of the genre as it developed in Sweden. Some of these aspects—the incorporation of explicit social criticism, for example—are further developed by Bergman in her chapter on police procedurals. Kärrholm's discussion of children's and youth-oriented crime fiction is similarly relevant to readers of Scandinavian Studies. Her discussion on genre specifics and the development of the subgenre in Sweden in recent decades is particularly helpful. Gendered aspects of the crime fiction are addressed in several chapters; one chapter by Kärrholm focuses specifically on this issue. Here I find the elaboration of agency aspects particularly insightful.
Kriminallitteratur is a timely and useful resource for Swedish crime fiction aficionados and university students. For readers already well versed on the topic, the book will function well as a supplementary historical and thematic overview, with some original analytic and interpretive perspectives included. As a whole, the book is a valuable reference work for a number of constituencies. [End Page 462]