Nordic noir books are brutal, bleak, and brilliant — in other words, they make the perfect thrilling read. Ready to take the plunge? We gathered 13 Nordic noir books suffused with icy atmospheres, haunted characters, and troubled investigators racing against time to solve a perplexing mystery.
13 Chilling Nordic Noir Books
These acclaimed crime dramas will make your blood run cold.
The Woman Inside
By M. T. Edvardsson
M. T. Edvardsson, author of the lauded thriller A Nearly Normal Family, delivers another page-turner with The Woman Inside. Set in a Swedish college town, this riveting Nordic noir follows Bill, a recently widowed father, Karla, a law student who rents a room in Bill’s home, and the Rytters, an incredibly wealthy couple who live behind locked doors. As Bill struggles to make ends meet for his daughter, Karla works as a house cleaner to pay her way through law school. Karla’s clients are the Rytters — and immediately she knows that something is amiss about the couple. But things take a shocking turn when the Rytters wind up dead and Karla is pulled in for questioning. Everyone in this domestic thriller has something to hide, but is murder among their secrets?
By Lars Kepler
Frightening, clever, and icily compelling, The Sandman by Lars Kepler is a dark psychological thriller that’s guaranteed to jangle your nerves. Thirteen years ago, Mikael Kohler-Frost and his younger sister went missing, and they were presumed to be the latest victims of Jurek Walter, Sweden’s most notorious serial killer. Flash forward to the present: Mikael is still alive and is found wandering outside Stockholm, desperate to rescue his sister from a man he calls the Sandman. Detective Inspector Joona Linna, who years ago helped capture Walter and put him away, is now convinced that the killer has an accomplice. So the detective sends Inspector Saga Bauer deep undercover at the psychiatric hospital where Walter is being held to reveal the truth — and, hopefully, to rescue Mikael’s sister before it’s too late.
The Keeper of Lost Causes
By Jussi Adler Olsen
Chief Detective Carl Mørck was once one of Copenhagen’s best homicide investigators. But after losing two colleagues in a shoot-out with his weapon still holstered, he’s been reassigned to Department Q, the forsaken home of ice-cold cases. One case, however, catches his eye: the five-year-old disappearance of a politician, who is presumed dead. Mystifying as it is, this case may be Mørck’s ticket to redemption — because he’s convinced the victim is still alive. Propulsive, smart, and grippingly gruesome in all the right ways, The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler Olsen is “as impressive as it is unnerving” (The Independent).
By Ragnar Jonasson
In Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson, Ari Thór is a rookie police officer assigned to Siglufjördur, a tiny fishing village in northern Iceland. It’s the type of place where people leave their doors unlocked at night. But this tranquility is shattered when a woman is found bleeding and unconscious in the snow and a local author dies under mysterious circumstances at the local theater. As Thór’s investigation intensifies, he begins to see another side to this isolated community at the edge of the world — one marked by lies, treachery, and double-dealing.
The Forgotten Girls
By Sara Blaedel
International bestseller The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel follows Detective Louise Rick as she takes on a twisting, turning case that leads back into her past. When an unidentified woman is found dead in the forest, Rick is hopeful that a distinctive facial scar will help reveal her identity. When a photo of the victim is released to the public, however, the detective turns up more questions than answers. The woman is Lisemette, a “forgotten girl” abandoned by her family at a mental institution. But not only was Lisemette deserted as a child, she also had a twin, and both siblings were reported dead three decades ago.
The Chestnut Man
By Soren Sveistrup
A tense and crafty thriller, The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup was recently adapted into a mystery series on Netflix. A twisted killer stalks the streets of Copenhagen, leaving behind dolls made of matchsticks and chestnuts at each crime scene. When the fingerprint of a minister’s daughter turns up on one of the handcrafted figurines, two detectives with drastically different styles join forces to crack the killer’s creepy games.
By Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
A gripping murder mystery with an expertly crafted plot, Roseanna is a top-tier Nordic noir story by acclaimed crime-writing duo Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. It’s been three months since Roseanna’s body was pulled from Sweden’s Lake Vattern, and details about the murder remain few and far between. All Detective Martin Beck knows is that she could have been killed by any of her fellow cruise ship passengers, which leaves about 85 suspects to investigate. As Beck dives deeper into the case, he feels pulled in by the intrepid spirit of the victim and the bizarrely refined clues left behind by the killer.
By Jo Nesbø
The Snowman by internationally bestselling author Jo Nesbø is an icy murder mystery set against a snowbound Scandinavian backdrop. When young Jonas wakes up to freshly fallen snow in Oslo, he finds a snowman dressed in his mother’s scarf…but his mother is nowhere to be found. Inspector Harry Hole takes up the case, at first suspecting that the disappearance is related to a mysterious letter he received. As the investigation unfolds, however, a chilling pattern emerges that connects multiple missing women, all of whom vanished on the first snowfall of the season. Complex and darkly gripping, The Snowman is a classic of Nordic noir.
The Ice Princess
By Camilla Läckberg
The first book in the author’s acclaimed Patrik Hedström series, The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg is an electrifying Nordic noir mystery that’s sure to please. When Erika Falk returns home to the isolated fishing village of Fjällbacka in Sweden to mourn her parents’ passing, she’s shocked to encounter another death: Alex, her childhood best friend, is found frozen in a bathtub with her wrists slashed. Why would Alex take her own life? With the help of police detective Patrik Hedström, Falk digs into Alex’s past, uncovering deeply buried secrets with life-or-death repercussions.
By Henning Mankell
A brilliant police procedural, Faceless Killers is the first in Henning Mankell’s acclaimed Detective Kurt Wallander series. The police protagonist epitomizes Nordic noir’s troubled antihero archetype: While his personal life is in shambles, his investigative mind is as sharp as a knife. An isolated community in southern Sweden is rocked by the double murder of an elderly couple. The husband is found bludgeoned to death, while the wife mutters “foreign” with her dying breath before succumbing to her wounds. Wallander, struggling to keep his private life together, takes up the case. He and his colleagues must navigate an insular community and the rising tide of xenophobia if they hope to expose the killer.
By Helene Tursten
In Hunting Game, Helene Tursten, the acclaimed author of the Irene Huss mysteries, introduces us to Embla Nyström, a strong-willed detective and experienced hunter in Gothenburg, Sweden. Nyström takes some much-needed time away from work to meet up with her family and friends for a yearly hunt. When she arrives, however, Nyström learns that a newcomer has joined the hunting party, and not everyone is happy about it — their presence makes 13 hunters in the group, a bad omen. When two of the hunters disappear and one is found dead in the lake, Nyström’s wilderness vacation takes a dark and deadly turn.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson
A bestselling literary phenomenon, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is an engrossing thriller set in modern-day Sweden that every Nordic noir fan should read. Weighed down by a libel case, struggling journalist Mikael Blomkvist accepts a job investigating the decades-old disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a member of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families. With the help of Lisbeth Salander, a young punk with a photographic memory and impressive hacking skills, Blomkvist searches for clues. It isn’t long before the pair uncover a spiraling web of depravity that no one expected.
By Yrsa Sigurdardottir
From award-winning Icelandic crime novelist Yrsa Sigurdardottir, The Legacy is an acclaimed thriller that “will have Nordic noir fans turning the pages” (Library Journal). The novel introduces us to psychologist Freyja and police officer Huldar, who team up to crack a baffling murder case. A seven-year-old girl is found hiding in the room where her mother was killed, and Huldar believes she holds the key to finding the murderer. The only problem? The little girl won’t talk. That’s where Freyja, who specializes in working with traumatized young people, comes in. The investigative pair must work together if they want to find the killer.