15 Nordic Noir books that give you all the spooky feels

October may bring the sunny skies to Australia but that doesn’t mean we can’t still settle down in the shade with a stack of spine-chilling books. I’ve always loved a thriller but recently I’ve been underwhelmed by unrealistic twists, poor writing, terrible endings, and sometimes a mixture of all three. Not long ago, I discovered Nordic Noir which reignited my passion for dark, gritty narratives. Nordic Noir’s have Scandinavian settings that are often remote, bleak, and the perfect scene for gruesome murders. This is going to be one heck of a Halloween 🎃🔪

“Mortui vivis docent – the dead teach the living.”

The Hypnotist – Lars Kepler

Spotlight recommendation

Every month, I share my top recommendation. For October it is:

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup

Described as: Twisty, chilling, and gruesome

The Chestnut Man remains one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. Expect plenty of action, twists and turns throughout, red herrings that catch you completely off guard, and an ending that you won’t see coming.

Quick overview

When Copenhagen’s murder squad discover a dead woman, they find her hand amputated and a chestnut man left at the scene. Forensics reveal a fingerprint on the chestnut, which matches that of a young girl declared dead after going missing a year ago. A series of similar murders occur, each more brutal than the next, with the same chestnut and fingerprints found at the scene. The police must work fast to find out why the women are being targeted, the significance of the chestnut men and crucially, the psychopath who is terrorising the city.

Hayley’s highlights

Nordic Noir remains quite a new genre to me, so I’ve taken inspiration from some of my booksta friends, notably Heidi from @ButBooksAreBetter2, who drew my attention to a bunch of the books below!

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Described as: Darkly humourous, propulsive, and atmospheric

Alone in Department Q, Carl is left with only Copenhagen’s coldest cases for company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at him: a liberal politician vanished five years earlier and is presumed dead.

But she isn’t dead … yet.

I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjørk

Described as: Grisly, explosive, and shockingly realistic

A six-year-old girl is found in the Norwegian countryside, hanging from a tree with a rope around her neck. She’s dressed in strange doll’s clothes. Around her neck is an airline tag that says “I’m traveling alone.” 

👍 One thing I admired about this book was how strong the motive was. It’s something I often find lacking in thrillers but this one was solid and gave the book a true sense of realism.

Watching You by Arne Dahl

Described as: Masterful, dark, and disturbing

At each abandoned crime scene there’s a hidden clue: a tiny metal cog, almost invisible to the naked eye. Someone is sending Detective Sam Berger a message, someone who knows that only he will understand the cryptic trail.

Dark Pines by Will Dean

Described as: Creepy, sinister, and intriguing

Book one in the Tuva Moodyson Mystery series, Dark Pines takes place in an isolated Swedish town, where a deaf journalist who is terrified of nature reports on a pair on eyeless hunters found dead in the dense forest.

After She’s Gone by Camilla Grebe

Described as: Atmospheric, tense, and a slow-burn

In After She’s Gone, psychological profiler Hanne and her partner investigate a cold case: 10 years ago, a five-year-old girl’s remains were found in a cairn near the town. Dealing with a recurring memory problem that has resurfaced, Hanne struggles to keep track of the case. And when a woman’s body turns up at the cairn with one of Hanne’s shoes found nearby covered in the victim’s blood, can Hanne explain?

The Hypnotist by Lars Keplar

Described as: Adrenaline-drenched, gruesome, and gripping

In The Hypnotist, a triple homicide attracts the interest of DI Linna. The killer is still at large, and there’s only one witness—the boy whose family was killed before his eyes. Desperate for information, Linna sees only one option: hypnotism. He enlists Dr Bark to mesmerise the boy; it’s the sort of work Bark has sworn he’d never do again but when he relents, a terrifying chain of events starts to unfold.

The Bat by Jo Nesbø

Described as: Chilling, intriguing, and violent

The first in the Harry Hole series, The Bat introduces us to Inspector Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad who is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. After befriending a detective and a witness, Harry is drawn deeper into the case where they link the murder to a string of unsolved cases. As they close in on the killer, Harry fears that no one is safe, least of all those investigating.

*Although this book is set in Sydney, the majority of the series takes place in Norway.

I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Described as: Goosebump-worthy, terrifying, and ghostly

In I Remember You, three friends start renovating a rundown house in a completely isolated location. They soon realise they are not as alone as they thought. Something wants them to leave. Meanwhile, a young doctor investigating an elderly woman’s suicide discovers that she was obsessed with his vanished son. When the two stories collide, the shocking truth becomes horribly clear.

Even more Nordic Noir to get your spines tingling

  • The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe – A chilling dance of obsession, vengeance, madness, and love gone hellishly wrong.
  • Dark Iceland series by Ragnar Jónasson – set in and around a quiet fishing village in Iceland, where no one locks their doors. Features Ari Thór Arason, a rookie policeman with a past he’s unable to leave behind.
  • The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl – When Red Cross nurse, Nina, is left a key to a locker in Copenhagen train station, she is sucked into her most dangerous project yet. Inside is a suitcase, and inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive.
  • The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg – Returning to her hometown after her parents’ funeral, Erica finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning.
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
  • The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea – Iceland, 1686. Newly betrothed, Rósa must join her husband in a remote village where the locals are wary of outsiders. But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Alone and far from home, she sees the darkness coming and fears she will be its next victim… 

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