Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon

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Inga Thelander


Crime writer

Inga Thelander was an author of murder-mysteries which contravened several norms of the Swedish whodunit genre of the 1950s. A brilliant literary career was predicted for her before her untimely death cut her future short.

Inga Thelander attended Etisk-Pedagogiska Institutet (the department of ethics-pedagogy) at Uppsala, and then undertook language studies in Great Britain and Germany. She worked as a freelance journalist and released her debut murder-mystery novel in 1953. She was married to Bengt Thelander, an architect, and they had three children together.

Inga Thelander’s debut novel, Gift eller inte?, published in 1953, was a traditional whodunit which followed the norms of most other Swedish detective novels of the era. These stories are often set in pleasant environments and are focused on the actual murder-mystery which is presented as a puzzle requiring logical reasoning in order to solve it. Inga Thelander’s first book received favourable reviews but by her second novel, Eldfängt byte, published in 1954, she already begun to display transgressive elements contravening the accepted Swedish norms for this genre. Her interest in her characters’ psychological makeup increasingly came to the fore, resulting in her crime novels coming to resemble other forms of literary prose, where the focus no longer just lay on solving the mystery. Reviewers of Inga Thelander’s work gradually began to encourage her to cross over into writing ‘real’ novels rather than carrying on with the whodunits.

Two of Inga Thelander’s most interesting detective novels are her 1957 Blues för en blond dam and Eldfågeln, published in 1959. The former presents the murder-mystery from the point of view of an in-depth psychological portrait of the victim, produced by one of her surviving male friends. This portrayal reveals a feminist criticism of a society which cannot cope with strong women. Eldfågeln introduces the character of Inspector Beck – the namesake for Maj Sjöwall’s and Per Wahlöös’ later character Martin Beck. Inga Thelander’s inspector is, like Sjöwall’s and Wahlöös’ Beck, a divorced father who takes a contemplative approach to solving murders.

To some Inga Thelander’s later novels, particularly the 1960 Flickan i det gröna and Regnbågen, from 1961, provide evidence that she was transiting away from the whodunit genre just as she unexpectedly died. Flickan i det gröna dealt with drug addiction whilst Regnbågen took the form of a psychological love-story. All of Inga Thelander’s works generally received favourable reviews and her literary output was mainly viewed as promising.

Inga Thelander died following a brief illness in May 1961. She was 45 years old. She is buried in Botkyrka cemetery.

Sara Kärrholm
(Translated by Alexia Grosjean)

Published 2018-03-08

You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Inga Thelander,, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Sara Kärrholm), retrieved 2024-06-18.

Other Names

    Maiden name: Malmgren

Family Relationships

Civil Status: Married
  • Mother: Märta Elisabeth Severa, kallad Vera, Malmgren, född Sundequist
  • Father: Robert Emanuel Malmgren
  • Brother: Curt Robert Malmgren
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  • Studieresa, : Språkstudier i England och Tyskland


  • Profession: Frilansjournalist
  • Profession: Författare


  • Birthplace: Tumba
  • Tumba
  • Stockholm
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  • Forsell, Mikael, 'Psykologisk thriller i fjällvärlden', Östersunds-Posten, 2005-12-06

  • Fredriksson, Lillian, 'Två femtiotalister', Jury: tidskrift för deckarvänner, 1986:2, 1986

  • Kärrholm, Sara, Konsten att lägga pussel: deckaren och besvärjandet av ondskan i folkhemmet, Östlings bokförlag Symposion, Diss. Lund : Lunds universitet, 2005,Eslöv, 2005

  • Kärrholm, Sara, 'Den misslyckade deckarförfattaren. Genreförväntningarnas betydelse för värderingen av Inga Thelanders författarskap', Litteraturens värden / Anders Mortensen (red.), Brutus Östlings bokförlag Symposion, Eslöv, 2009

Further References