Lesser isn’t here to win converts, but even those unmoved by its subject will thrill to the book, a beautifully crafted inquiry into fiction, reality, crime and place ... The book’s first half...is a spellbinding long essay in which Lesser tells us what she has learned in four decades of reading Scandinavian noir ... Her engagement with the source material, hundreds of titles’ worth, is rigorous yet playful. She’s interested in the art on the walls in the characters’ homes, as well as the psychology behind the books’ most frequent themes — children in danger, female sexuality, the political ramifications of immigration ... She manages to interview several real-life police detectives, while also seeing the region’s museums, castles and tourist attractions. It’s charming and illuminating, if not quite equal to the brilliance of the first section. Perhaps when it comes to fiction and reality, what we need most are critics like Lesser, who can dissect the former with the tools of the latter.
Lesser concludes the volume with a useful appendix, in which she shares her favorite Scandinavian mysteries, along with helpful commentary. Whether readers are transfixed by the spectacular exploits of Lisbeth Salander, or impressed with the doggedness of Kurt Wallander, or even if they've never encountered these characters, they'll find in Scandinavian Noir an entertaining journey into the world of these mysteries and the cultural milieu that spawned them
...an enjoyable travelogue ... Fans of Nordic crime fiction who have traveled through the pages of many of these books will surely enjoy Scandinavian Noir, and it's an interesting (if somewhat light) exercise in comparing fiction and real-life ... The third-person narration of the second part is very odd, but the stilted approach does have the benefit of holding the reader's attention -- it's like a camera-angle one has never seen before (say, everything being filmed from ground level), captivating in its own right ... An enjoyable variation on the usual travelogue.