Not the Booker: Dark Pines by Will Dean review – icy thriller does the job

The body and cliche count clock up in a tiny Swedish town – but a complex protagonist elevates this debut above other Nordic noir

This second novel on our Not the Booker 2018 shortlist is about a serial killer in rural Scandinavia. If you’re like me, that knowledge may make you feel slightly cynical. I’ve no way of verifying this, but I have a hunch that, in the decade or so since Stieg Larsson popularised Nordic noir, more people have been murdered in novels about Sweden than in the whole history of that famously safe country.

With dozens of post-Larsson Nordic noir novels out (and even a couple post-Larsson-Larsson novels out), the cliches of the genre are becoming tedious. At first glance, Dark Pines doesn’t escape them. There’s blood, snow, long dark nights, deep empty forests, people with wholesome exteriors covering ...