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Dark arts of the north

The glint of blood on snow, the shattering of social order, or just the clothes: why does the world love Nordic tales of murder?

By John Banville   July 2012

Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia in The Bridge, the latest and perhaps the most violent of Scandinavia’s crime dramas

A recent New Yorker cartoon nicely illustrates the case. A publisher and her author, both plainly American, sit in the publisher’s office, at the publisher’s desk, with the manuscript of the author’s latest novel between them. The publisher is enthusing over the work, declaring it a clever, well-plotted and fast-paced thriller—“only,” she says, “now can you make it Scandinavian?”

Nordic noir began, they say, with the ten books that the writing team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö published, at the…

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