In Hunting Game (Soho Crime, Feb.), Swedish author Tursten introduces a new series lead, Det. Insp. Embla Nyström.
How has the development of Scandinavian noir affected your approach to crime fiction?
Scandinavian noir was first applied to the 10 Martin Beck novels, written by Sjöwall-Wahlöö between 1965 and 1975. These books contain a lot of social criticism and are written from a left-wing point of view. That political awareness became a new concept driving Swedish crime novels, and that enabled me to criticize and write about the darkest sides of society, and “hide” all that darkness in an exciting story. I have, for example, written about Neo-Nazis, problems with psychiatric care and the mental healthcare system, and the expansion of extremely violent criminal gangs. I’ve also written about the modern sex industry and its many facets: the practice of grooming victims, trafficking people, and again, the criminal gangs involved that profit off this trade.
How has Scandinavian noir evolved over the last decade?
Now the genre is much wider and more inclusive than it once was. As a writer, you are free to choose any kind of way to tell your story, and the narrative can take whatever form you choose—the boundaries of the genre are more forgiving and expansive. For example, you can even tell your story in poetry, if you like (yes, that has been done). Or the story can be told from the victim’s point of view, with the dead person as a narrator.
How have you gone about researching how the police in Sweden work?
I’m married to an ex-cop, who has been a dentist for 34 years now. Thanks to him, I have had good contact with his former colleagues, who have been very helpful. That has been essential to me. I am still getting insights from my husband’s former colleagues, but most of them are now retired. Fortunately, I have new, younger police officers that I can contact.
How does Embla Nyström differ from your previous lead, Irene Huss?
After 10 books about Irene, I strongly felt that I had to recharge my batteries. Embla was perfect for that purpose, because she is so different from Irene as a person, in terms of both her personality and her demographic. Irene was married and had her twin daughters when she was 24 years old. Police work and her family obligations dominate her time. She is intelligent and has a good instinct for police work. Unlike Embla, she is very experienced. Embla is 28, single, and has absolutely no intention to get a husband or have children. Unlike Irene, Embla has a hot temper—but she tries to cool it down. I think that makes a big difference in the way she approaches her job.