I’m not a big fan of Swedish crime novels. They feel too formulaic to me. It starts with murder. Then you’ve got your detective. He (and he usually is a he) tends to have a pretty severe drinking problem. He tends to have problems with women. He tends to be half feared and half respected by his peers. And of course, in the end, he solves the crime. Sweden can’t once again sleep soundly.
Sure, there are exceptions to the rule. But even the exceptions fit the bill to some extent. I think Mikael in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fits this quite nicely with a few variations. He’s a journalist, not a detective, but he’s looking for answers. He has a severe drinking problem, it just happens to be coffee. He has problems with women, it just happens that he falls in and out of bed with them at a very high rate. And of course, in the end, he solves the crime.
But Swedish crime novels are becoming more and more popular in this country. We’ve got Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund, Camilla Läckberg, and one of the latest – Jens Lapidus with his book which was recently translated into English as Easy Money.
Written as Snabba Cash in Swedish, the book tells a crime story from a different angle. Instead of the classic alcoholic detective, the main characters are the criminals themselves. It’s a different approach to an old genre and brings a new perspective to Scandinavian crime. Interestingly enough, Lapidus, while not a criminal, does spend a lot of time with criminals (or alleged criminals) – he’s a criminal defense attorney in Stockholm. This gives him a unique insight into the criminal underworld and helps give some authenticity to the book. It can also make it a difficult book to read for someone trying to learn Swedish.
The book is filled with a whole lot of slang, but with the release of the English translation, it may be a good way to practice your Swedish. Try reading through the book in English first (or your native language. You’ll know the story and be comfortable with it. Then pick it up in Swedish. There will be lots of words that make no sense. That’s ok. Some of them may not even be Swedish. Lapidus attempts to mirror the language being used in the Swedish underground which means there is a mix of languages that get thrown into the book. Note though the differences from book to book and keep that English version handy. It will make your life easier and the experience a bit more enjoyable Once you’ve made your way from cover to cover, hopefully you’ll have learned a bit of Swedish along the way. Plus, you might find that you discovered a new author you enjoy. And if all else fails, you can still break Jantelagen and brag to your friends that you read a book in Swedish.
Have you read the book? Seen the movie? What do you think?