Jo Nesbø The Redbreast (English ed. 2009).
Harry Hole is a cop with alcohol and commitment problems unable to protect those he loves. Hmmm. Does this sound familiar? He even has a dodgy old car. Does all the crime fiction of Northern Europe come from some well of angst, bad-dressing and second-hand cars somewhere on the arc between Amsterdam and Helsinki? But I thought Jo Nesbø's The Redbreast was a high quality example of the genre with a neatly interwoven text that jumped between contemporary Oslo and the Second World War Russian Front. There is plenty of historical detail to get your teeth into (the issue of the complicity of some Norwegians with Germany and its post-war aftermath). The Russian Front made an interesting change from more conventional war settings: a fair bit of research has gone on behind this book. The villain was guessable, but there were lots of satisfying red herrings and complicated dead-ends along the way. Another thing that marked this book out as 'different' was a sort of ghostly, other-worldly theme which cropped up in places and added an extra chill to the narrative. I'm going to read more about Harry Hole.
If you liked this: I still think, if you want to read something from the cold north, you'd be going to beat the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. The Swedish series begins with Roseanna (1965). I see that the latest Nesbø jackets have him as the new Stieg Larsson though. Eek!