Whodunit? Guest columnist Glenn Folkvord explains Norwegians’ obsession with crime fiction – and why the genre is an Easter favourite.
They extend winter, invented modern crime fiction, and celebrate Easter by reading about murder. Who? The Norwegians, of course - writes thelocal.no
One would think that after a long, dark and bitter winter, Norwegians would welcome spring, sun and the promise of summer.
That is probably true for the cold-challenged, but many Norwegians choose to extend the winter by spending the Easter holiday in their mountain log cabins, armed with mutton, eggs and chocolate wafers.
However, one more ingredient is needed to really get into the spirit. To some it is the highlight of the holiday. Murder. Preferably many of them, safely experienced between two book covers. Between shovelling snow or skiing on it, Easter for Norwegians means wallowing in crime fiction. In Norway, you can't avoid it that one week of the year.
TV bursts with high profile British mystery shows. On the radio, NRK has produced radio plays. Your newspaper's weekend supplement has probably commissioned a crime short story and interviewed an expert on why Norwegians read Easter crime fiction, or "påskekrim". Want milk? Not without spotting the crime cartoon on the cartons.
And then there was the bakery that asked its Facebook followers to find out who had stolen their cupcakes. A fictional cupcake kidnapping case, because what is Easter without crime everywhere the word can be typed?
The classic media for Easter crime is soft cover paperbacks, a practical format with their small size and weight, suitable for backpacks and suitcases. You can buy them at gas stations and local convenience stores on your way to your holiday destination. More than half the population travel somewhere during the Easter week.
All subgenres of crime and thrillers are read, but classic whodunits and slow paced "cosy crime" are the traditional choices. You don't even have to cave in to the publishers' suggestions, as nobody flinches if you bring a stack of old dog-eared flea market finds.
The reading of crime fiction during Easter is believed to be a tradition unique to Norway. The seed of the Easter crime phenomenon can be attributed to a specific day in history, because it was a book publisher's marketing ploy that started it all.
On March 24th, 1923 (the day before Palm Sunday), Oslo newspaper Aftenposten printed the headline "The train to Bergen was robbed last night" across the front page. The news spread like a free money rumour. In reality, there was no headline.
What Aftenposten had printed was in fact an ad for a novel of the same name, but few picked up on the small disclaimer printed next to it. "Bergenstoget plyndret i nat" was written by Jonathan Jerv, or Jonathan Wolverine, an alias for two students, Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie. Both born in Bergen on Norway's west coast. Grieg went on to be one of Norway's most prominent authors in the 1920s and 30s, while Lie would become a major figure in publishing.