Prime Minister Pens Crime Novel with Ragnar Jónasson

Best-selling author Ragnar Jónasson and Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir have co-authored a crime novel together, RÚV reports. The book will be called Reykjavík.

This may seem an unlikely detour for the Prime Minister, but Katrín actually wrote her undergraduate thesis on Icelandic crime novels. She and Ragnar have, moreover, been planning their collaboration for some time. Two years ago, Katrín mentioned that the pair would be co-authoring a book together, but COVID scuppered those plans—at least temporarily. A year ago, however, Ragnar confirmed that they’d started writing.

Reykjavík is set in 1986 and deals with the disappearance of a young girl named Lára Marteinsdóttir from Víðey, a small island located in Kollafjörður Bay just off the capital’s coastline, some 30 years previous. For decades, Lára’s disappearance has weighed heavily on the Icelandic nation, but no concrete explanation of her disappearance has ever been furnished. That is, until a young reporter starts digging into the cold case with startling consequences.

“In this story, Katrín Jakobsdóttir and I are going to invite readers on a journey back to the summer when Reykjavík celebrated its 200th birthday, when Bylgjan and Stöð 2 [Iceland’s first privately-owned radio and TV stations] first started broadcasting, and Reagan and Gorbachev’s Reykjavík Summit was just around the corner,” wrote Ragnar in a Facebook post about the book on Friday. “And that summer is also when unexpected clues about Lára’s fate come to light.”

Reykjavík is set to be released in Iceland on October 25.

Nordic Noir Author Arnaldur Indriðason Awarded

Best-selling Nordic noir author Arnaldur Indriðason was awarded the Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize yesterday. The award is given annually on November 16, Icelandic Language Day, to individuals whose work has helped the Icelandic language flourish through writing, teaching, or scholarship. Arnaldur’s books have sold over 14 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 40 languages.

Arnaldur is a prolific writer whose crime fiction books are popular in Iceland as well as abroad. In 2006, his novel Jar City was made into a film directed by Baltasar Kormákur. On receiving the award yesterday, Arnaldur stated that he was accepting it on behalf of all crime fiction writers in Iceland. “I believe the award is also a recognition of the branch of literature of which I have been a representative for about a quarter of a century and has flourished in our literary flora in recent years,” he stated.

Podcast host Vera Illugadóttir also received special recognition at the ceremony. Vera is the creator of the Icelandic-language podcast series Í ljósi sögunnar, produced by RÚV. The podcast presents global history in a gripping, narrative format, often telling of historic events that have rarely been written about in Icelandic.

Arnaldur Turns to History, Not Crime, This Christmas

World-famous author Arnaldur Indriðason will not be putting out a new crime novel during this year’s jólabókaflóð, or Christmas Book Flood, mbl.is reports. Arnaldur has released a new book every November 1st for the last 24 years, and his crime novels—whether they star Detectives Erlendur, Konráð, or Flovent and Thorson—are a particularly popular part of the season. This year, however, Arnaldur is trying something new and releasing a work of historical fiction.

Many of Arnaldur’s novels are set in the past, but on top of being distinctly un-criminal in nature, his new book, Sigurverkið (a title which can mean both ‘Winning Entry’ and ‘Watchworks’) moves to an entirely new era. It takes place in the southern part of the Westfjords in Iceland and Copenhagen, Denmark during the 18th century and tells the story of Jón Sívertsen, an Icelandic watchmaker working in a Danish palace to restore magnificent, old clock. One day, the King himself, Christian VII, comes into the Jón’s workshop. Although still king in name, Christian, who suffers from mental illness, has been sidelined by his son and court. In the course of their conversation, Jón tells Christian about his father and foster mother, who were killed at the behest of the previous monarch.

In his interview with Morgunblaðið, Arnaldur said that the idea for the story “came to me very suddenly. I got the idea for the book last summer and immediately sat down to write and finished it in about six months.” The book takes inspiration from real people and events, although Arnaldur has combined and refigured details to suit his narrative. And as the era is not one that he’s written before, he enlisted the assistance of a historian while writing. “It was a lot of fun for me to write about the 18th century because it is, of course, a new arena for me as an author, but it’s also an interesting possibly new arena for contemporary Icelandic literature.”

Arnaldur says that he wants to continue to surprise himself as a writer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be writing a lot more historical fiction from here on out. He’s not sure what the future holds on that count but will be making a return to crime fiction soon. “Konráð, the rather skewed protagonist of my last books, will be in full swing next Christmas,” he said. “That I can I promise.”

Book of Essays on Nordic Crime Fiction Discusses How Noir the Nordics Really Are

Books by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir on a shelf.

Bloomsbury has recently published the book Noir in the North, a collection of scholarly essays on Nordic crime fiction. Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir, professor of comparative literature at the University of Iceland, is one of its two editors and recently told Lestin radio show that one of the biggest issues tackled in the book is the question of how noir Nordic crime fiction really is.

For the past few decades, some of the world’s most famous crime writers have come from the Nordic countries. Recently, Scandinavian tv series have continued developing this tradition and aesthetic, telling tales of crimes and the dark sides of the nordic welfare system, shows like Broen, Forbrydelsen, Wallander, Trapped, and Brot. Scholars show the genre increased interest. The book’s origin is a conference that took place in the University of Iceland in collaboration with the University of Newcastle and the Iceland Noir crime fiction festival. Among the topics discussed at the conference was the name of the genre. Icelanders talk of the Nordic crime novel, but abroad, it’s knowns as Scandinoir or Nordic noir.

“That’s what we’re wondering about in the book, why the noir? Is it just because Nordic Noir has a ring to it and stuck? Or does it have deeper roots? That’s one of the main topics in the book,” Gunnþórunn told Lestin. “Is Noir a helpful term to understand this genre, or is it a superficial marketing term? Björn Norðfjörð’s essay mentions that there’s very little connection between the American noir we are familiar with and the Nordic crime novel. Others take a broader understanding of noir and reason that some elements of Nordic noir are similar to Hollywood noir. Such as how tv series such as Broen and Forbrydelsen portray cities – focusing on their darkness and frayed edges.

What most notably separates Nordic crime fiction from the rest of the world is the societal angle, that crime fiction can be a mirror to society. Another thing is the North’s image in the minds of the public. “It’s the mystical north and its darkness. We also have a subgenre of the Nordic crime novel that’s set in very remote places and deal with terrible weather and darkness and so on. Shows like Trapped work with the cliches of the north – the isolation, and the edges and boundaries. The market, as well as people’s imaginations, have welcomed these shows.”

Gunnþórunn also says that you can note that the cliches of the North and the world’s interest in them affect the Nordics’ production nations of their tv shows. “Some have suggested that Danish tv is using this much more markedly to sell their series internationally and that they have started to see their tv productions, which were originally only intended for the local market and the nordic one, as an international product. This international interest makes it a little self-exoticising.”

The popularity for the past few decades has been immense, but it looks like the international market of the Nordic noir is slowing down a bit. “The tv shows are slowing down. They still exist, but Broen is over and Forbrydelsen as well.” But then someone makes a new series, changing the landscape again. We’ve also seen non-nordic series taking on the aesthetics and topics, such as the Uk’s the Fall and The River. Other countries are developing their noir as well, Scotland’s tartan noir, iris noir and so on.”

Crime Novelist Ragnar Jónasson Tops Bestseller List in Germany

Ragnar Jónasson

Mistur (German title Nebel; English title The Mist) by Icelandic crime novelist Ragnar Jónasson is currently #1 on Der Spiegel‘s bestseller list in Germany. This is the first time that an Icelandic author has topped this list.

Mistur is the final instalment in Ragnar’s trilogy starring policewoman Hulda Hermannsdóttir. In a somewhat unconventional move, German publisher btb Verlag released all three books in the trilogy—Dimma (German title Dunkel; English titleThe Darkness), Drungi (German title Insel; English title The Island), and Mistur—in rapid succession this year. The first and second instalments came out in May and July respectively. This seems to have been a good bet: Dimma reached number two on Der Spiegel‘s list and all three books were ranked in the top ten last week, a relatively unheard-of coup.

Ragnar’s books have sold close to 1.5 million copies worldwide and been published in 27 languages in 40 countries. He can easily claim to be one of Europe’s most popular authors right now and is on track to becoming a household name in the US, too. American TV giant CBS is in the process of turning The Darkness into an eight-part series, which will be produced in Iceland with support from Truenorth Productions, which recently coproduced Netflix’s first original Icelandic series, The Valhalla Murders.

Trapped Season 3: Filming Begins in North Iceland

Ófærð (Trapped)

Filming of the third season of Icelandic crime drama Trapped (Ófærð) is scheduled to begin shortly in Siglufjörður, North Iceland, trolli.is reports. Between 60 and 80 people will be working on the shoot, which is to take place between September 24 and October 9. Both season one and two of the popular show were filmed in part in Siglufjörður.

All cast and crew will be staying at hotels and guesthouses in the town of 1,174. One scene will be filmed at the Siglufjörður swimming pool, which will be closed to the public for the duration of filming. The gym and sports facilities at the same location will remain open.

Iceland’s largely successful response to COVID-19 has made it possible for many large-scale film projects to go ahead as planned this year. Regulations have been put in place, however, to minimise the risk of transmission. Presently, production companies in Iceland must apply for a special filming permit that allows actors to be exempted from distancing rules. A COVID safety supervisor must be on set at all times, and makeup and costuming staff are required to wear masks, as is the film crew in spaces where distancing cannot be maintained. Cast and crew will all have their temperature taken daily when arriving on set.

The Trapped team has been working on the show’s third season since as early as December 2018.