Glass Key Award: The Best of Nordic Crime Novels

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Scandinavia's most prestigious crime writing award is a great place to discover some of the best literature from the region. Here's what you need to know about the Glass Key Award.

Without a doubt, crime is the best-loved literary genre in Scandinavia and the Nordic region. Walk into any bookshop and the genre will dominate the shelves. Crime writers are household names across the region.

Glass key award concept image

Scandinavian crime fiction or Nordic noir has found a massive fan base around the world. Many authors such as Jo Nesbø have found success through translations into English, German and many other languages.

But knowing where to dive in to a genre is tough. We've previously written about the best Norwegian crime novels available in English.

But if you want to try out crime fiction writing from elsewhere in the Nordic region too, you could do worse than look to the Glass Key Award.

Introducing the Glass Key

Known in Norwegian as Glassnøkkelen, the Glass Key award is a literature award given every year to a crime novel by an author from the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Norwegian author Jo Nesbø
Norwegian author Jo Nesbø has previously won the Glass Key award.

The award is run by members of the Crime Writers of Scandinavia (Skandinaviska Kriminalsällskapet). Members vote on the best book from their country to create the final shortlist.

Glass Key winners

13 Swedish authors have won the award. There have also been seven Danish winners, six Norwegian winners, two Icelandic winners and a sole winner from Finland. Also, there has been one Danish-Norwegian winner.

Celebrated Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell was the first winner of the award in 1992. His book Mördare utan ansikte (Faceless Murders) was the first in the hit Wallander series.

Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell
Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell (1948-2015) was the first Glass Key award winner. Pictured here in 2009. Photo: Dr. Jost Hindersmann / Wikimedia.

In recent years, Swedish authors have dominated the award, winning from 2017 to 2021. This includes two wins for Camilla Grebe.

Norwegian winners of the Glass Key

Norway's Glass Key winners include a mix of international stars and those whose books have not been translated into English. The first Norwegian winner in 1994 was Sub Rosa, a police detective novel from Kim Småge, the pen name of Anne Karin Thorhus.

Two years later, Fredrik Skagen won the award with his book Nattsug, the first in a run of three consecutive wins for Norway. Karin Fossun's Se dig ikke tilbake! (Don't Look Back) and Jo Nesbø's Flaggermusmannen (The Bat) were popular winners in the following two years.

Karin Fossum. Photo: Arild Sønstrød / Cappelen Damm.
Norwegian writer Karin Fossum won the Glass Key in 1997. Photo: Arild Sønstrød / Cappelen Damm.

Nesbø's title was the first in his popular Harry Hole series. Unlike much of the series that takes place in Oslo, this introductory novel was set in the underworld of Sydney, Australia.

The Danish-Norwegian author Kurt Østergaard (writing as Kurt Aust) collected the Glass Key in 2004 for Hjemsøkt. It would be nine years before a Norwegian author would win again.

In 2013, Jørn Lier Horst won with Jakthundene (The Hunting Dogs), one of the popular Wisting series. The following year, Gard Sveen's Den siste pilegrimen (The Last Pilgrim) won the award. At the time of writing, Sveen is the most recent Norwegian winner.

Are you a fan of Nordic crime novels? Have you read any of the Glass Key winners above? Let us know in the comments below.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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