How well does the appeal of one writer rub off on another? "In genres where you have voracious readers," Herbert says, "it works very well." Likening one writer's work to another is especially important in a marketplace so crowded that customers can be overwhelmed.
"It's human nature to want to prolong a good thing," Sara Nelson, books director of O, the Oprah Magazine, says of Knopf's hopes. "The problem is you don't really know what it was about those books of Stieg Larsson's that made them so successful. It seems literal and obvious to say, 'Here's another male, Scandinavian crime writer.' But there may be something less obvious in those books. So much of this is just unknowable. And some trends are meant to be three books long."
Whatever happens, the subgenre could be jump-started once again when director David Fincher's U.S. adaptation of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is released this winter.
Knopf will publish the novel that preceded "The Snowman," "The Redeemer," next year, and the one that follows it, "The Leopard," in 2013. (HarperCollins previously published fourHole novels in the U.S.)
As for the eternal question of why Scandinavia — a murder-averse region better known for centuries of peace, functional furniture and bland cuisine — should spawn the world's richest body of crime fiction since the California of Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, Nesbo is as stumped as anyone.
"It may have to do with the storytelling tradition in Scandinavia," he says. "The cliché is that we have these long dark nights where people stay in and tell each other stories — horror stories, fairy tales, dark stuff...." He laughs. "Maybe there's something to that."
Timberg blogs at TheMisreadCity.com
Jo Nesbo will appear in conversation with James Ellroy on Tuesday at a sold-out event at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles , 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. writersblocpresents.com/