The Edge of Words

10 May 2013

Jeppe Stricker, Aalborg University, Denmark

“The Musical Impulse in Scandinavian Crime Novels”


The Edge of Words: Music in Arne Dahl’s Crime Novels

The Scandinavian Crime Novel has seen a remarkable rise in popularity in recent years, and the subgenre of the police procedural is no exception. One of the most acclaimed novelists in Scandinavia today is Swedish author Arne Dahl, whose ‘Intercrime’ series has been a definitive success since the 1999 release of the first installment titled Misterioso (after Thelonius Monk’s 1958 record by the same name). Dahl has written a total of fourteen books, but only Misterioso has been translated into English and released in the UK last year.

With titles such as Misterioso (1999), The Europe Blues (2003), and Requiem (2007), Dahl’s Intercrime novels inevitably call attention to themselves as works of fiction in which music, in one way or another, plays a role. The novels are diverse, certainly, but they are united by their literary and social ambition and the various ways in which they integrate music. I would like to suggest that Dahl effectively reassesses the nature of crime fiction by probing into its generic limitations through music; while Dahl’s mission is primarily literary and social rather than musical, the use of music allows him to ask questions pertaining to literary conventions and values typically associated with the crime novel. More specifically, the novels engage in a discussion of the very idea of originality by merging musical and literary ideals. In doing so, Dahl transcends the generic limitations often associated with crime fiction and thereby shows an unconventional way forward for the genre.

Related Links

Jeppe Stricker's profile