Thrillers in Translation

August 13, 2018 | M. Elwood

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 Domestic suspense novels, sometimes called Grip Lit have been massively popular in recent years.  They usually feature ordinary people who are either directly or indirectly involved with a crime. Bad relationships are almost always part of the mix too. This genre includes books like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Girl Before, Final Girls and a lot of books that don't have the word girl in the title.

If you're looking for something suspenseful this summer, consider one of these novels in translation. After all, toxic relationships are not just for people in English-speaking countries.


Babylon by Yasmina Reza, translated from the French by Linda Asher 

A spring party leads to murder and the hosts decide to help the murderer cover up the crime. 


Blackout by Ragnar Jónasson, translated from the Icelandic by Quentin Bates

It's summer in northern Iceland with 24 hour light when a man brutally killed. A journalist from Reykjavik and local police begin separate investigations but ash from a recent volcanic eruption plunges the region into darkness, making it difficult to solve the crime. 

Can you hear me

Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello, translated from the Italian by Alex Valente

Elia is a bored teenager struggling with growing up in a small Northern Italian community in the 1970s. His life is complicated by his mentally ill father who is becoming increasingly more disturbed, the murder of a young boy and the arrival of a beautiful disreputable woman.  


Confessions by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder

A teacher on her last day before retirement delivers one final lecture. During this class she announces that she has planned a horrible revenge on the two students she holds responsible for the death of her child.  

Frozen woman

The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett 

Vilhelm Thygesen, an ageing left-wing lawyer, finds a dead woman frozen in his garden. She has been stabbed. His acrimonious relationship with the police leads them to conclude he is the prime suspect. Things are complicated by a motorcycle gang, former clients of Thygesen, who are terrorizing the neighbourhood. 


The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek, translated from the German by Jamie Lee Searle 

Earlier in his life, Leon Nader had committed violence while sleepwalking but with psychiatric help, he believed he had been cured. When his wife disappears and their home shows evidence of a struggle, he wonders if his illness has resurfaced and decides to investigate. 


Quicksand by Malin Perrson Giolito, translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Eighteen-year-old Maja is on trial for a horrifying crime–a mass shooting that killed her best friend and her boyfriend. How did Maja go from being a popular star student to one of the most hated people in Sweden? 

A quiet place

A Quiet Place by Seichō Matsumoto, translated from the Japanese by Lousie Heal Kawai

Tsuneo Asai is on a business trip when his wife dies. She had heart trouble so it's not completely unexpected. After his initial shock wears off, however, he begins to wonder about the details of her death–she was a homebody, so what was she doing in that sketchy neighbourhood? As he begins to look into her death he begins to realize that he didn't know his wife as well as he'd believed. 

Smoking kills

Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain, translated from the French by Louise Rogers-Lalaurie

In this French black comedy, a successful businessman realizes how much of his happiness is related to cigarettes; now that a smoking ban is in effect, there is no joy in his life at all.  It is only when he unintentionally commits a murder, that he once again feels alive. 


Snare by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated from the Icelandic by Quentin Bates

Sonja's life has suddenly become difficult. After losing custody of her son in a bitter divorce battle, Sonja turns to drug smuggling to raise money quickly. Although she proves to be a good at her new job, she raises the suspicion of a customs agent and must take increasingly risky steps to avoid being caught. 

Three days and a life

Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre, translated from the French by Frank Wynne

In 1999, 12-year-old Antoine is responsible for the accidental death of another boy and compounds his mistake by hiding the body. He is never connected to the disappearance of the boy but he is haunted by it nevertheless. Years later, while visiting his hometown another error in judgement results in an unplanned pregnancy with a woman whose father is threatening to make Antoine take a DNA test. The only problem is that the boy's body has been found and Antoine is afraid that his DNA will show up on the body. 

Time is a killer

Time is a Killer by Michel Bussi, translated from the French by Shaun Whiteside

Clotilde, her husband and daughter are vacationing on Corsica, where her parents and brother died in a car accident years earlier. Although it gives her a chance to reconnect with family, she finds memories of her childhood unnerving. Then a letter arrives that is signed by someone using her mother's name and Clotilde starts to question the past. Could her mother still be alive? What really happened in the accident?