Norway is known as having one of the strangest holiday traditions – Påskekrim – reading about gruesome murders over the Easter holiday. So we’re taking a minute to dive into how this tradition started. Perhaps it is time for you to climb on the Oslo-to-Bergen train, first stop Påskekrim:
It All Started with Fake News
In February 1923, two Norwegians, Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie, wrote a crime novel about the looting of a train to Bergen. The book was called The Bergen Train Was Robbed in the Night (or, in its original Norwegian: Bergenstoget plyndret i natt).
Their next step was to get people to buy the book. They came up with a brilliant plan and one that may have been the origin of fake news (15 years before Welle’s “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast). They advertised in the newspaper, Aftenposten, by putting the title of the book on the front page. The headline convinced thousands of readers that the iconic train had actually been looted! It soon became the most popular Easter book in Norwegian history and is considered the beginning of Påskekrim.
In 1923 Easter fell on the 1st of April so in the book the police initially believed the robbery was an April Fool’s prank and took their time responding. This allowed the criminals to make their exit skiing across the mountains undetected.
The authors of The Bergen Train knew Easter was a time when Norwegians took the opportunity to head off to mountain cabins (or hyttes) for relaxation, settle down by the fire, and not think about work. And what better to way to get their minds off work than a crime novel.
Påskekrim i dag (Easter Crime today)
Norwegians typically get a full week for Easter break and they spend it at the cabin, skiing, and reading with family. These days, a Påskekrim novel is a traditional part of any Easter trip to the country, along with an orange, and a Kvikk Lunsj (a chocolate bar similar to the Kit-Kat). The tradition of a Kvikk Lunsj bar is so strongly associated with Påskekrim that a crime novel was written that had a cover so similar to the candy bar’s wrapping that the publisher was sued.
Each year a milk company, Tine, joins in the spirit of Påskekrim by printing crime-related cartoon strips on the side of their milk cartons.
Publishers plan around this intense season of reading and TV stations, NRK and TV2, show murder mysteries during this holiday.
One of the biggest names in Norwegian crime is Jo Nesbø, but other Nordic countries have produced some of the bestselling crime in the world.
Camilla Läckberg is one of Sweden’s premiere crime authors; she’s even been called “the rock star of Nordic Noir.” One of her newest novels, The Golden Cage, follows the scorned wife of billionaire and her plot for revenge.
Jussi Adler-Olsen, of Denmark, has been writing about the Danish cold case police department (Department Q) since 2015 and recently release the 9th installment. Victim 2117 takes a global perspective of what happens when the death of a refugee in the Mediterranean Sea sends a ripple effect around the world. Will Department Q stay one step ahead?
Or get a more local thrill with a novel about a St. Paul financier who gets murdered in his penthouse, set in 1917. The Magic Bullet by Larry Millet is a classic locked room mystery.
Ingebretsen’s has you covered for Påskekrim novels in translation for your Easter holiday needs.