Scandinavian Noir

N+1 reviews the Millenium trilogy, a Swedish crime series that takes a surprisingly dim view of the welfare state:

Together with the quaint aesthetics of the Scandinavian countryside, this socialist backdrop is precisely what makes the genre work. It’s shocking enough when a bloated corpse turns up floating in Stockholm’s pristine, well-managed waterways or when a serial killer disrupts the huddles of little red cottages that dot the Swedish countryside. The lingonberry jam on the detective’s afternoon waffles looks a darker shade of red; the friendly smile of the average Jens on the street twists into a sinister grin. But the complicity of the welfare state heightens the tension. The system has a hand in all aspects of Swedish life. If you can’t trust the system, what can you trust? In the best Swedish crime novels, including Larsson’s, the cradle-to-grave welfare system takes care of its wards. But you start to wonder just which meaning of the verb “to take care of” that phrase refers to and whether the all-too-visible hand of the state isn’t rocking the cradle over an open grave.

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