Since there are still a few weeks left of winter, I decided to put together a list of books that have atmospheric, winter settings. No better time than a frigid January/February day to curl up with a good book that will put you in the mood.
Park yourself up on your couch with a comfy blanket and a hot beverage, and get ready to be entertained for a few good hours.
The following books are some of my favorite ones, mostly thrillers. They all take place in cold climates, and the overall setting is dark and gritty.
Let’s see which are the 10 best books with winter settings you need to read right now, in my opinion.
10. Outside by Ragnar Jonasson
Having recently read this book for my Nordic Noir Readalong group, it is still fairly fresh in my memory. It is a slow-burn, atmospheric read, just like most Nordic Noir books are.
Four friends get together for a weekend getaway at an Icelandic cabin. Mostly to reconnect, but also to get away from their busy lives. A snowstorm keeps them stranded and isolated for a good part of the weekend, and one of them doesn’t come out alive.
A perfect, very fast read that can be enjoyed in one sitting. And if you can notice in the picture I read it in summer, which was not the best idea!
9. Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson
This is the first ever Ragnar Jonasson, and the first in the Dark Iceland series.
Set in the idyllic fishing village of Siglufyordur, the reader is introduced to Ari Thor Arason. The rookie policeman arrives for his first job after graduating from the police academy in Reykjavik, where he left his girlfriend behind. Shortly after his arrival, a young woman is bleeding and unconscious in the snow. Ari Thor starts investigating the crime in a small community where he doesn’t know who he can trust.
Another fast read that has all the elements for a great Nordic Noir book, minus all the gore and violence that is typical of the genre.
8. The Dark by Emma Haughton
If you love closed-room mysteries, this one is a great choice.
Set in Antarctica, the twelve members of the UN research station are stuck working together with no outside contact for the duration of the winter. The doctor Kate replaces, Jean-Luc, died in a presumably tragic accident. But things don’t take too long before she realizes it wasn’t an accident at all, and the killer is amongst them. Will they make it out alive, or will someone else lose their life?
Best enjoyed during the winter, this cold, creepy book is well-written and will give you the chilly vibes you would expect from this type of novel.
7. Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft
If you don’t mind a slow start, this book promises to deliver on many typical Nordic Noir checks. A great police procedural that has a complicated plot, a gruesome murder, and complex characters. The first book in the Malin Fors series, this one takes place during a very cold winter. The detective, a single mother of a teenage girl, has only her instincts to rely on in order to solve the murder of a man from a small town. Full of secrets and twists, this one will keep you guessing until the very end.
6. Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurdattodir
Sisters Arora and Isafold haven’t spoken in a while. Their mother is worried about Isafold who usually checks in regularly. But since they live in different countries, she can’t just go over and make sure she’s ok. So she sends Arora to Iceland just to have peace of mind. When Arora gets there she enlists the help of Daniel, a police officer who is indirectly connected to the family and who is more than glad to assist her. Arora discovers that her sister really did disappear, and stumbles upon another mystery that she uncovers while she’s there.
A fast-paced read that will go down easily on a cold winter day curled up on your sofa.
5. The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
Another closed-room mystery style, this book by Sarah Pearse is the ideal book for a cold winter read. The remote location, creepy atmosphere, and suspicious characters are all elements that I enjoy in this book genre.
Set in the Swiss Alps, at a luxury hotel that used to be a sanatorium, this is the first Detective Elin Warner book in the series. Elin gets invited to the hotel her estranged brother’s fiancé works for a weekend celebration. What was supposed to be their engagement party turns wary, with the fiancé and another staff member missing. A storm outside keeps everyone stranded inside the hotel, so the killer is amongst them and can’t go anywhere.
This well-plotted story is narrated with Elin’s inner monologue and contains enough turns to keep you guessing until the end.
4. The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe
This is a great Nordic Noir book to keep you company on a cold winter’s day! With a story that alternated between three narrators, this character-driven dark novel will make you feel unsettled. An unidentified young woman is found beheaded under the fancy home of a chain store CEO. Similar to an unsolved ten-year-old murder, the owner of the house is immediately the suspect. But he also disappears just as things get heated up with his new flame, Emma Bohman.
Who is behind these brutal killings, and are they in any way related? This is a police procedural with a very twisted end that I never guessed.
3. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
The seventh Harry Hole novel by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo is one of the best books I read yet. The Redeemer and the Leopard are also great additions to this series.
Over the past decade, eleven women disappeared just as the first snow fell. Detective Harry Hole receives a suspicious letter that may be linked to these murders. As he embarks on the latest investigation, he falls deep into the killer’s web.
Nesbo is one of the best Nordic Noir authors to read, especially if you enjoy dark and gloomy settings.
2. The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza
Robert is one of my newest favorite authors, and this first book in the Erika Foster series is a great book to enjoy during the colder months.
DCI Foster has an innate instinct that may get her in trouble, but she solves the murders she’s investigating. Called in to lead a missing person’s case turned murder investigation, this police procedural is nail-biting. Plot-driven, this heart-stopping thriller will have you on the edge of your seat.
You can read the previous article that I dedicated to all the author’s works.
1. The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
A first by Swedish writer Camilla Lackberg, this sets off the scene for the Erica Falck and Patrik Hedstrom series. There are ten books in this series, and I loved them all. If you want to read more about each of them, I did an author spotlight article on the author last year.
This thriller is not as gory as some of the other Nordic Noir books I read, but it has enough twists and turns to keep you engaged. Plus Lackberg’s writing style is fluent and very easy to follow, so her books read fairly fast.
This is my list of the 10 best books with winter settings you need to read right now. Surprisingly, they are mostly Nordic Noir thrillers! Those of you who are familiar with my reading preferences will not be surprised one bit.
Let me know if I convinced you to try reading any of these books. Until next time, fellow bookworms!