Let’s explore a Scandinavian crime fiction classic, with Lost in Adaptation.
Many years ago, when I was on something of a crime fiction bender, I stumbled across Jo Nesbo. People were raving about his take on the Scandinavian crime genre and how interesting it was.
Part of this raving was that he was touring Australia promoting the film Headhunters (an interesting thriller movie) and exhibited a charming and charismatic demeanour as he humbly gave credit to his novel’s English translator. Yes, that’s right, despite his fluency in English and the majority of his book sales being to the English-speaking book market, he lets someone else translate them.
So I picked up a few Harry Hole novels and read one.
Nesbo himself referred to the series as being inspired by Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, which I think is a fair comparison. But, the difference is that Connelly tends toward the dry real-world investigation influenced by his time as a crime reporter, whereas Nesbo tends toward the excitant – as much as a police procedural can do so.
Why did you read only one of the novels you bought?
That’s a very good assumed question from the assumed audience.
There are a few reasons. The first was that sometime after reading my first Nesbo novel I’d grown tired of the crime genre. As Dominic Noble mentions in the video, there are often numerous contrived red herrings in these sorts of books that start to become tedious rather than exciting and interesting. Often the main character is unlikeable or would be the person everyone at a party avoids due to their predilection for telling stories about linoleum texture styles through time.
The second reason was that, outside of a few exceptions, crime novels are part of the normalisation of the exceptional with a side serve of copaganda. When you start looking at crime data and policing and the giant chasm between that reality and the perceptions of crime and police, it becomes hard to enjoy this type of escapist fiction.
The third reason is something Dominic Noble alludes to in the video. The books aren’t exactly good. With a bit of distance from the genre now, I find myself less enamoured with authors like Nesbo, and thus have no real desire to read more of his stuff.
And on this point, I’m reminded of something Lauren Beukes said about being on a panel with Jo Nesbo. He was describing going to her home country of South Africa and how he got kitted out in body armour, had an armed guard to go places, etc, etc, and she commented how it was nice exaggeration that makes for a good story, but doesn’t really work if you give it any thought or know something about it.*
* I may be putting words in Beukes’ mouth here as this is a remembered comment from at least a decade ago.