Glass Key Award: The Best of Nordic Mysteries

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Scandinavia’s most prestigious detective writing award is a great place to experience some of the region’s best literature. Here’s what you need to know about the Glass Key Award.

Undoubtedly, crime is the most popular literary genre in Scandinavia and the Nordic region. Walk into any bookstore and the genre will rule the shelves. Mystery writers are household names throughout the region.

Scandinavian detective fiction or Nordic noir has found a huge fan base all over 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 into a genre is difficult. We have already written about the best Norwegian crime novels available in English.

But if you also want to try writing mystery novels elsewhere in the Nordic region, you could do worse than turn to the Glass Key Award.

Introducing the Glass Key

Known in Norwegian as GlassnokkelenThe Glass Key Prize is a literary prize awarded each year to a detective novel by an author from the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

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

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

Glass Key Winners

13 Swedish authors won the prize. There have also been seven Danish winners, six Norwegian winners, two Icelandic winners and only one Finnish winner. Also, there was a Danish-Norwegian winner.

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

Swedish writer Henning Mankell
Swedish writer Henning Mankell (1948-2015) was the first recipient of the Glass Key Prize. 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 Glass Key Winners

Norway’s Glass Key winners include a mix of international stars and people whose books have not been translated into English. The first Norwegian winner in 1994 was Under Rosaa crime novel by Kim Småge, the pseudonym of Anne Karin Thorhus.

Two years later, Fredrik Skagen wins the prize with his book Natsug, the first of a three-game winning streak for Norway. by Karin Fossun Deepen yourself ikke tilbake! (Don’t Look Back) and Jo Nesbo Flaggermusmannen (The Bat) were popular winners over the next two years.

Karine 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 most series set in Oslo, this introductory novel is set in the underworld of Sydney, Australia.

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

In 2013, Jørn Lier Horst won with Jakthundene (The Hunting Dogs), one of Wisting’s popular series. The following year, Gard Sveen’s Den siste pilegrimen (The Last Pilgrim) won the award. As of this writing, Sveen is Norway’s newest 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.

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