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Tidy Norwegian mysteries
BookShelf: It's fun to discover the places you've read about
For a bit of travel without leaving your armchair, Judith Overmier recommends these mysteries set in Norway:

Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum

What Never Happens by Anne Holt

The Body in the Fjord by Katherine Hall Page

The Golden Section by Pernille Rygg

Final Curtain by Kjersti Scheen

by Judith Overmier

I ought to be vacuuming. Instead I'm curled up in an easy chair deciding which mystery set in Norway to reread. There are 57 on my bookshelf; the earliest is "The Black Tortoise" published in 1901.

The mysteries are evocative of Norwegian culture. Take Norwegian cleanliness, for example. These heroes are tidy, including the victims. Ella Griffiths' novel "The Water Widow" opens with Georg Brandt in agony with a toothache. But, he has an "innate sense of order and neatness." Before going to the dentist (and disappearing forever), ..."he rinsed the cup, saucer, and teaspoon under the hot-water tap, dried them, returned the cup and saucer to the cupboard, and replaced the spoon in the drawer."

Norwegian villains are neat too! Irma Funder, the murderer in Karin Fossum's "When the Devil Holds the Candle," reveals she spends her "evenings tidying up the house. I wash and put things away and wipe and dust. Everything is clean. Finally I splash some bleach in all the drains."

Oh yes, those are the Norwegians I know and love. In my first visit to Bergen, Norway, we "apartment sat" for four months. The neighbors came by to welcome us and gave us the cleaning schedule for the communal staircase. Observing my blank look, they provided directions, demonstrated, suggested stores with the best brooms and cleaning products. It's no mystery why we have gone back to Norway every year for 26 years-it feels like home.

Mysteries set in Norway include police procedurals, thrillers, legal puzzles and spy adventures, with hardboiled detectives, amateur sleuths and private eyes. Some are written by British and American authors, but most are written originally in Norwegian by Norwegian authors unknown to Americans-at least until a recent upsurge in interest.

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Reading enriches my love of travel. That's how I found myself flying into Bergen, seeing this west-coast Norwegian city anew through the eyes of Margaret Moss, private investigator. I know just what she means when she reports, "Suddenly the landscape appeared. Grey veils of cloud wandered off. Sharp peaks and deep gorges. ... There was the fjord, green-black in colour, lighter green meadows, small houses." Moss solves the case in Norsk author Kjersti Scheen's "Final Curtain," and in the process she has a glass of wine at Wesselstuen-right across the street from where I often stay! It's fun to recognize place names and descriptions of fish markets, shop windows, bus stops, city parks, Husfliden stores ... in mysteries. I recommend walking around looking for them.

Nina King's "Crimes of the Scene" is a good source of mysteries arranged by place. Next time you're traveling, make the experience even richer by first reading mysteries that are set in your destination.

Ah, reading and traveling-both better than vacuuming!
Judith Overmier is a Minneapolis author of poetry, short stories and articles who likes to write on airplanes and in coffee shops around the world.

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Send us 450 words about your booklife, plus your list of four to five related books by women authors, to editor@womenspress.com.

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