Camilla Swift Camilla Swift

Crime fiction at Easter? Look no further than our Scandinavian neighbours

If you thought that winter in Britain had gone on long enough this year, then spare a thought for the Norwegians. Winters in Norway are famously long, dark and bitter, and – for those who experience them year upon year – can be incredibly boring. During one such winter, in February 1923, two Norwegians called Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie decided to alleviate their boredom by writing a book. The theme? A train robbery; or more specifically, a looting of the train to Bergen. The title of the book? The Bergen train was robbed in the night (or, in its original Norwegian: Bergenstoget plyndret i natt).

Having written the book, the next step was to convince people to buy it, and here the authors came up with a very cunning plan indeed. They decided to advertise their book by printing its title on the front page of the national newspaper Aftenposten, thus convincing thousands that this was headline news rather than a PR stunt, and cementing its place as the most popular Easter book in Norwegian history.

Image: Aftenposten

That year – like this year – Easter fell on the 1st of April, which meant that in the book, the police initially believe the robbery to be an April Fool and take their time responding. This allows the criminals to make their exit across the mountains (on skis, naturally), gloriously undetected.

This book kicked off what was to become a Norwegian tradition – Påskekrim, or ‘Easter Crime’. Grieg and Lie had noticed that Easter was a time when Norwegians took the opportunity to head off to their mountain cabins, or ‘hytte’, settle down next to a log fire, and put work to the back of their minds. And what better to aide their escapism than a nice crime novel?

These days, a påskekrim novel is a vital part of any Easter trip to the mountains, along with a KvikkLunsj (a chocolate bar a bit like a Kit-Kat), and an orange.

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