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  • Mord og metafysik: Det absolutte, det guddommelige og det overnaturlige i krimien by Kim Toft Hansen
  • Claus Elholm Andersen
Kim Toft Hansen. Mord og metafysik: Det absolutte, det guddommelige og det overnaturlige i krimien. Aalborg: Aalborg Universitetsforlag, 2012. Pp. 346.

This book is an impressive and thorough study of religious and supernatural elements in Scandinavian crime fiction. The author states that the overarching goal of the book is to “systematisere den seneste skandinaviske krimis brug af metafysisk, religion og overnaturlige elementer” [systematize contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction’s use of metaphysical, religious, and supernatural elements] and to give a “plausible kulturel forklaring på, hvorfor vi ser den interesse” (p. 15) [plausible cultural explanation for why these elements are used].

The book appears at a time when the international hype surrounding Scandinavian crime fiction has faded drastically. Instead of Scandinavian crime authors, it is now French authors like Jean-Christophe Grangé, Fred Vargas, and Thierry Jonquet who are applauded for their innovative and original take on the genre of crime fiction. In this context, Kim Toft Hansen’s monograph can be seen as an attempt to add an important perspective to the understanding of a tendency in Scandinavian literature that has passed its peak. This makes the book’s argument more convincing, as the object of study simultaneously can be considered historical and contemporary.

In the first chapter, Toft Hansen introduces the theme of the book through a short but exemplary reading of one of Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum novels. This reading shows that Varg Veum is not guided by “en moderne ateisme eller privatiserende sekularisme” [a modern atheism or [End Page 401] privatizing secularism] as we typically would expect of a logical and rational private investigator, but rather by “en accept af religionens tilstedeværelse, betydning og åndelige kraftfulde indvirkning på mennesket” (p. 15) [an acceptance of the presence, significance, and powerful spiritual impact of religion on human beings].

The introductory chapter is followed by four theoretical chapters, in which Toft Hansen sets up the framework for his study. These chapters are the book’s weakest section; Toft Hansen could easily have shortened it by 100 pages. Instead, we are left with a number of extensive and unnecessary theoretical discussions. At times, it feels as if Toft Hansen is trying to reinvent the wheel, as, for example, when he uses most of a chapter to discuss the connection between culture and popular culture, or another to demonstrate how metaphysics can been seen as an integral part of modernity. These redundant chapters give the impression that the book is an unedited dissertation, though Toft Hansen nowhere writes that this is actually the case.

Eventually, the many theoretical discussions culminate in a discussion of the term “post-secularism.” Toft Hansen argues that a significant part of Scandinavian crime fiction ought to be considered post-secularist crime fiction, as it opens up toward “en ny metafysisk, der geninstallerer den argumentatoriske refleksivitet, som moderniteten ikke ville vedkende metafysikken” (p. 101) [a new metaphysics that reinstalls the argumentative reflectivity that modernity claimed was not part of metaphysics].

The last chapter in the book is by far the longest—over 100 pages—and also the best. It is a tour de force with excellent and convincing readings of Scandinavian crime fiction. It is here that Toft Hansen shows that he is at his best when analyzing and dissecting. And it is here that his argument becomes credible and persuasive. The fact that the author is an exceptionally skilled writer certainly helps, as the discussion of many novels and television shows makes the reader want to revisit the works he already knows and familiarize himself with texts he does not know.

It is also in this last chapter that Toft Hansen coins the term “velfærdsteodicé” [welfare theodicy] as a term that, within the Scandinavian welfare states, describes the question “hvorfor der stadig findes onde handlinger fra personer, der bor i en velfærdsstat, hvor der ideelt set skulle være lige muligheder for alle” (p. 220) [why there are still evil acts by people living in a welfare state, in which ideally everybody should be equal]. This new term seems highly relevant to any...


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