From Iceland — Ask a... Sociologist! Why Are Icelanders Obsessed With Crime Literature?

Ask a… Sociologist! Why Are Icelanders Obsessed With Crime Literature?

Published May 24, 2017

Ask a… Sociologist! Why Are Icelanders Obsessed With Crime Literature?

Q: Why in a country with so little crime are Icelanders obsessed with crime literature?

A: “We here in the northern hemisphere have long tradition of ghost stories, scaring each other with tales from the dark side. Our heritage as a book nation is also strong so it should not come as a surprise we are drawn to well written crime novels.

Crime and deviance is a popular topic because it tends to be shocking. Someone acting out of the norm, breaking the rules we live by and hold dearly. Rule breakers are a threat to “us” the “normal” people and raise feelings such as disapproval, anger and even horror.”

“But are Icelanders more emotional or more interested in crime compared to other nations? Some would say that is not the case as crime exists in almost all societies and raises the same negative feelings. But others would argue differently and point out that Icelanders have a different mentality.

Historically we were an isolated homogeneous nation with a small population scattered around the coastline and countryside. One could go on and argue that informal social control, views of family, friends and the community, needs to be strong in societies of this type.

Each deviance from the norm is therefore viewed as a threat to the social order, discussed in more detail, frowned upon and condemned by the public.”

We asked Ágúst Mogensen, a Lecturer in Sociology from the University of Iceland. If you have a question about Iceland that you would like answered, email us at and we will find the most suitable expert in the field in Iceland to resolve your conundrum.

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