Closed For Winter
Jorn Lier Horst
Sandstone Press RRP £8.99 pbk
The Woman Who Walked Into The Sea
Sandstone Press RRP £8.99 pbk
IT looks as though every publisher in Britain wants a slice of the Nordic Noir pie, but Dingwall-based Sandstone Press have picked themselves a particularly succulent piece in Jorn Lier Horst, a serving senior police detective in the Norwegian city of Larvik.
So too is his series hero William Wisting, a widower with a steady girlfriend and a loving journalist daughter.
Wisting is a thoughtful professional in the Scandinavian model rather than the damaged cop so beloved of the American and British hard-boiled school. That professionalism is put to the test when a group of summer cottages are burgled just as their owners prepare to close them for winter and a dead man is found in the cottage belonging to a well known Norwegian television personality.
No sooner has his investigation begun than Wisting is himself the victim of crime, car-jacked by the possible killer. His daughter Line isn’t exactly having a good time either. Deciding that she and her Danish boyfriend are ultimately incompatible, she retreats to a summer cabin close to the crime scene and begins writing a detective novel.
However, it appears the Wisting family are not done with her boyfriend yet, not once Wisting discovers his restaurant is being funded by a major figure in the Scandinavian underworld.
Meanwhile, suspicion in the robbery case falls on a gang of Lithuanian migrants and results in Wisting taking a trip to Vilnius.
But lest you worry that Wisting and Horst are getting all Daily Mail on us and scapegoating foreigners, a Lithunanian woman puts some historical perspective on her countrymen’s petty crimes:
"At one time, you Norwegians were poor as well. I think you have forgotten that, but you are so proud of your Vikings that you build museums for them. They were a hundred times worse than the Lithuanian people. They plundered, raped and killed, but now everyone thinks of them as heroes."
Add in the environmental mystery of why birds are dropping from the sky and it all adds up to a well crafted example of Norwegian noir.
However, Sandstone is not just looking to Scandinavia for its criminal element.
The second book in Mark Douglas-Home’s Sea Detective series, The Woman Who Walked Into The Sea, once more takes his Edinburgh based tidal expert to the rugged west Highlands and a community that is essentially an inner-city housing estate with all its inherent problems plonked down in what, on the surface, seems an unspoiled rural idyll.
It may lack the personal motivation for hero Cal McGill that Douglas-Home provided in the first novel — which hinged on the fate of his long dead grandfather — and have a lesser role for the unsociable Cal’s specialist knowledge of tides and currents, but it does offer a pleasing mystery.
Its roots lie in a good old fashioned inheritance dispute centring on a young woman deposited on the doorstep of Raigmore Hospital as a baby and the fate of a farmer who, Local Hero style, stands in the way of a wind farm development that might breathe new economic life into the village.
I’m now looking forward to catching up with McGill when third book in the series, The Malice of Waves, is released in August.