Perfect for any die-hard fan of Scandinavian mysteries and culture.

An enthusiastic guide to the mysteries and the countries.

Threepenny Review founder Lesser, whose biography of Louis Kahn, You Say to Brick (2017), won multiple awards, has been a huge fan of Scandinavian mysteries since college. She shares her “eccentric and personal” excitement for them in this comprehensive and insightful assessment of noir novels from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. “What I have constructed here,” she writes, “is a map, or a portrait, or a cultural history of a place that both exists and does not exist.” Early on, Lesser shares how the ten-book series about Swedish homicide detective Martin Beck, written together in alternating chapters by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, “changed my life.” Beck’s friend Lennart Kollberg is “one of the great characters of detective fiction.” In Lesser’s opinion, the only series that approaches Beck’s in its “persuasively real experience” is Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series. The author found Stieg Larsson’s uber-popular Lisbeth Salander series “un-putdownable” even though she “despised the cheap feminism of the books.” In the first section, Lesser broadly discusses all the novels via nifty alphabetically sequenced topics, from alcohol, erotica, and religion to xenophobia and zealous. She clearly has her finger on the pulse of Scandinavian society, discussing such topics as childhood abuse, obsessive references to original art, a scarcity of Jewish as well as female and gay cops, and sadism (“the worst sadist in all of Scandinavian literature is Karin Fossum,” whose novels are disturbing in a way that is “manipulatively, personally, intentionally pain-inducing”). In the second section, Lesser switches to third person as “she” describes a personal tour of the three countries. She feels at home in Sweden; Stockholm is “even lovelier than she expected.” In Oslo, a policeman tells her they only have about 12 homicides per year, and “compared to Oslo or Stockholm, Copenhagen is definitely a bit grungy.” Lesser’s opinionated Appendix summarizes the series that she has read, and her recommended list of TV adaptations is user-friendly as well.

Perfect for any die-hard fan of Scandinavian mysteries and culture.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-21697-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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