10 Best Nordic Noir Books: Curl Up With a Chilling Tale This Winter

Get your heart racing on a cold winter evening with one of the 10 Best Nordic Noir Books. 

If you’re a fan of crime fiction books or TV shows and haven’t yet experienced Nordic noir, you’re about to discover a treasure trove of gripping, un-put-downable tales that will have you up in the wee hours reading “just one more chapter.” Also known as Scandinavian noir, this subgenre of crime writing features gritty, realistic accounts of murder and intrigue, frequently infused with keen insight into Scandinavia’s history and sociopolitical issues.

The stories are often driven by police detective protagonists who struggle to manage their personal lives but are brilliant at understanding the minds of criminals. If you like this, you’ll love our round-up of the best authors like Stephen King.

Here Are The Best Nordic Noir Books

1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the first of three books in Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium series and has become a titan among crime novels. It is a dense, dark tale about a down-on-his-luck Stockholm detective and a tough-as-nails punk rock girl who team up to unravel a decades-old mystery. More than 30 million copies of the book had been sold worldwide by 2010. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was printed in more than 30 languages and adapted into award-winning feature films in Sweden and the United States. 

“As a girl, she was a legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status.”

Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: A Lisbeth Salander Novel (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Series)
  • book,The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,Stieg Larsson,Crime, mystery, thriller, Scandinavian noir
  • Larsson, Stieg (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 672 Pages - 11/22/2011 (Publication Date) - Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (Publisher)

2. The Bat, by Jo Nesbø

Jo Nesbø
Jo Nesbø via Wikipedia, Public Domain

The Batis the first of 13 novels in Jo Nesbø’s popular Inspector Harry Hole series. Harry Hole is a brilliant, though slightly unorthodox, master sleuth based in Oslo but is frequently called to consult in other cities and countries. He is a tortured genius who struggles with alcoholism and depression, mainly owing to all he has seen in his work. In The Bat, Inspector Hole is called to Sydney to help investigate the murder of a young woman from Norway. Hole soon discovers, however, that he’s hot on the trail of a serial killer.

“Human nature is a vast impenetrable forest which no one can know in its entirety. Not even a mother knows her child’s deepest secrets.”

Jo Nesbø, The Bat
The Bat: A Harry Hole Novel (1) (Harry Hole Series)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Jo Nesbo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 07/02/2013 (Publication Date) - Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (Publisher)

3. Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

Camilla Läckberg
Camilla Läckberg via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Camilla Läckberg’s novels are a great place to start if you are new to nordic noir books, as they are every bit as compelling, though slightly less dark than many of the others in this genre. One of the most beloved crime fiction writers in all of Europe, Läckberg brilliantly weaves all the harrowing details of criminal investigations with the personal dramas of her protagonists. In Ice Princess, the first book in a trilogy, a young writer named Erica joins forces with a police officer to investigate the supposed suicide of her childhood best friend. The attraction between the two grows as the mystery deepens.

“Don’t ever get old. With each year that passes, the old Viking idea of jumping off a cliff to one’s death looks better and better. The only thing to hope for is that you get so senile that you think you’re twenty years old again. That would be fun to relive.”

Camilla Läckberg, The Ice Princess
The Ice Princess: A Novel (Fjällbacka Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Läckberg, Camilla (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 418 Pages - 03/29/2011 (Publication Date) - Free Press (Publisher)

4. The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

David Lagercrantz
David Lagercrantz via Wikipedia, Public Domain

When Steig Larsson’s Millennium series gained international fame after his death, audiences were left desperate for more. So, the late author’s estate hand-picked Swedish journalist David Lagercrantz to continue where Larsson left off. He has since added four novels known as the Lisbeth Salander series. The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Lagercrantz’s first installment, is a timely and suspenseful trek through the dark side of the internet. It follows Lisbeth and Mikael, Stieg’s original sleuthing duo, as they search for the identity of an international hacker with dangerous secrets and ill intent.

“Gut feeling is often a better tool than all the psychological theories in the world.”

David Lagercrantz, The Girl in the Spider’s Web
The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series
  • The Girl in the Spider's Web
  • A Lisbeth Salander Novel
  • Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • The NSA

5. The Undesired by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Yrsa Sigurdardottir via Wikipedia, Public Domain

For a good reason, Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir is one of the most famous crime and horror novel writers in Europe. Her stories are, unfailingly, gritty, seat-of-your-pants page-turners. She is well known for her award-winning series about a lawyer and single mother, Thora Gudmundsdottir, and several stand-alone mystery novels, such as The Undesired.

In this suspenseful thriller, a young woman working at a home for boys in a remote village in Iceland witnesses something terrible. Decades later, a detective working on an alleged abuse case begins to think that the dark deeds of the past are somehow connected to his own wife’s car accident and untimely death.

“Someone always gets punished when a crime is committed, but not always the guilty party.”

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, The Undesired
The Undesired: A Thriller
  • Sigurdardottir, Yrsa (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 01/16/2018 (Publication Date) - Minotaur Books (Publisher)

6. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell via Wikipedia, Public Domain

If anyone can be credited with the international obsession with Scandinavian crime fiction, it is Henning Mankell. His Kurt Wallander police procedural series follows a hard-drinking, rule-defying police detective that lives and breathes his cases, often to his detriment. The first of the series, Faceless Killers, introduces audiences to detective inspector Wallander as he seeks justice for an elderly couple brutally murdered in their remote Swedish farmhouse. The Wallander novels have inspired a popular Netflix series entitled Young Wallander.

“Wallander thought of his own wife, who had left him, and wondered where to begin. A bestial murder, he thought. And if we’re really unlucky, it’ll be a double murder.”

Henning Mankell, Faceless Killers
Faceless Killers
  • Great product!
  • Henning Mankell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 279 Pages - 01/14/2003 (Publication Date) - Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (Publisher)

7. The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

Katrine Engberg
Katrine Engberg via Wikipedia, Public Domain

In 2020, former dancer and choreographer Katrine Engberg rocketed to fame with her debut novel, The Tenant. She has since added two books to the series. In The Tenant, Copenhagen homicide detectives Jeppe Kørner and Annette Werner have been assigned to investigate the murder of a young woman found dead in her apartment with strange symbols etched into her face. They soon grow suspicious of the woman’s eccentric landlady, but is she the culprit or just another pawn in a dangerous game?

“Sometimes the road less traveled is only traveled less because it leads you straight off a cliff.”

Katrine Engberg, The Tenant
The Tenant (Korner and Werner Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Engberg, Katrine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 367 Pages - 01/14/2020 (Publication Date) - Gallery/Scout Press (Publisher)

8. Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

Peter Hoeg
Peter Hoeg via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Peter Høag’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow took America by storm when published in English in 1993. It was named Best Book of the Year by both Time and Entertainment Weekly. Ultimately, a reflection on Denmark’s colonial history, this novel follows a young woman, disenchanted with Copenhagen’s affluent lifestyle, as she investigates the death of her youngest neighbor. Though the police consider his fall from the apartment’s rooftop an accident, Smilla suspects foul play.

“I feel the same way about solitude as some people feel about the blessing of the church. It’s the light of grace for me. I never close my door behind me without the awareness that I am carrying out an act of mercy toward myself.”

Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
Smilla's Sense of Snow: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Høeg, Peter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 514 Pages - 04/01/2010 (Publication Date) - Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Publisher)

9. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler Olsen

Jussi Adler Olsen
Jussi Adler Olsen via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Danish author Jussi Adler Olsen’s best seller, The Keeper of Lost Causes, was featured on Time’s Top 100 Crime and Thrillers Since 1945 in 2007, confirming its status as an instant classic. In this, the first of Adler Olsen’s 9 “Department Q” books, audiences meet Carl Mørk, a homicide detective who, after a tragedy within the force, is relegated to the cold case division.

In his quest to find out the truth about a presumed dead liberal politician, the darkly witty Mørk will prove to his colleagues that he’s still got what it takes and then some. Four novels have been made into critically acclaimed Scandi films, and the remaining 5 are already slated for production.

“Carl closed his eyes and tried to recall a couple of significant moments in his life. After a few seconds of nothingness, he opened them again.”

Jussi Adler Olsen, The Keeper of Lost Causes
The Keeper of Lost Causes: A Department Q Novel
  • Hardcover Book
  • Adler-Olsen, Jussi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 08/23/2011 (Publication Date) - Dutton (Publisher)

10. The Girl Who Died, by Ragnar Jónasson

No list of nordic noir book recommendations would be complete without a selection from internationally renowned Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson. In The Girl Who Died, Una spends her evenings alone in her Reykjavik apartment, drinking too much and wondering if she will wind up like her father, who recently committed suicide. So when she sees an advertisement for a teacher in a tiny, remote Icelandic village, she believes it could be the fresh start she’s been looking for. It’s not long before she realizes that answer to that ad was a grave mistake. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best horror authors!

“Teacher wanted at the end of the world.”

Ragnar Jónasson, The Girl Who Died
The Girl Who Died: A Thriller
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Ragnar Jonasson (Author) - Amanda Redman (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 05/04/2021 (Publication Date) - Macmillan Audio (Publisher)


  • Stefani is a freelance writer who specializes in lifestyle and literary pieces. She worked for several years as a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. Stefani is pursuing a graduate degree in English literature focusing on contemporary poetry. When not writing, you can find her in the garden, making plans for her next road trip, or in her workshop, where she restores vintage and antique furniture.