Norwegians love a good holiday, and Easter is a classic. Since the school break is quite long, families tend to take a few extra days off and make a real occasion of it. The timing is usually appropriate weather-wise, and the traditional approach is to pack the skis, head to a mountain cabin, and have an outdoorsy week of simple pleasures; sun, snow, exercise. A roaring fireplace.
And plenty of murder.
Yes, murder. So deeply entrenched is a bit of relaxing seasonal bloodshed, that there is a genre word for it, påskekrim – Easter crime. Norwegians can’t get enough of it.
When Easter rolls around, all the publishers pump out the cream of their criminal and detective fiction crop before the break, confident that yet again, Norway’s very active reading public will devour as many of these as they can get their hands on.
The same thing happens on evening TV, with detective specials and serials, typically of the classic British sort, monopolizing the airwaves. Radio waves are also suddenly full of crime, murder and mystery. Even Eastertide milk cartons have a three-‘page’ murder story to solve printed on the sides.
With Norwegian cabins now tending toward the luxurious rather than the spartan, radio is no longer the only entertainment option, but it remains a favorite medium for mystery and mayhem. State broadcaster NRK can expand their traditional TV murder menu knowing that the modern cabin is likely equipped with the latest in digital technology. This Easter NRK is following on in the style they started in 1976 with Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey.
Murder 2010 NRK-style promises PD James’s Adam Dalgleish, and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, plus two more modern criminal mini-series from Britain. Commercial station TV2 is retaliating with Robbie Coltrane as police inspector Douglas Hain and a less conventional choice, a Norwegian action series.
Why are Norwegians so bloodthirsty every Easter? The habit supposedly originated in 1923, when two students, Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie, wrote a thriller about students who rob the Bergens train at Easter and escape on skis.
This crime novel was launched at Easter, and to market the book, Nordahl’s publisher brother Harald Grieg dreamed up an inventive campaign for the time, namely an ad that looked like a standard news story, planted on the front page of national daily Aftenposten.
Frightened members of the public rang in to newspapers trying to learn more about the bold robbery, concerned for friends and relatives that had been on the train. The book sold out, and created a demand that has become a national tradition.
An article published last Easter season found that Norwegians were reading more criminal lit than ever before. Two sources noted the trend, and even in 2007 there were seven crime/detective titles in the top ten bestsellers list. Keeps them out of trouble.