Crimes of Passion, BBC4, PREVIEW

Island nightmare – Christer, Eje and Puck are confronted with a murderer. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 30 August, 9pm

Story: In Bergslagen in the 1950s, amateur sleuth Puck Ekstedt, her student boyfriend Einar Bure and their police superintendent friend Christer Wijk set out to solve a series of murders.

NORDIC NOIR in the shape of The Killing and The Bridge has really refreshed UK television, influencing brilliant recent series such as Broadchurch. The chilly settings and brooding, brilliantly acted dramas were a thrilling departure from much of the crime fare previously being produced here.

Which makes the arrival of this new six-part Swedish series a tiny bit disappointing. It’s a handsomely made drama. It’s just that it feels so familiar.

‘What the hell is this?’ says one character when a body is discovered. ‘It’s like Ten Little Indians.’

Agatha Christie with a Swedish twist

Exactly. Crimes of Passion are 90-minute whodunits, strongly infused with Agatha Christie. A bunch

Crimes of Passion. Christer (OLA RAPACE), Puck (TUVA NOVOTNY), Eje (LINUS WAHLGREN)
There are tensions between the friends

of stock characters in a period setting – an isolated island for the opener – someone is bumping them off one by one, an inspector calls and in a drawing-room denouement all is revealed.

It’s Marple, Father Brown and The Lady Vanishes, with Mad Men styling and subtitles.

Puck is writing a thesis on murder in modern novels, and she is invited by college academic Rutger to a midsummer party on his island, which has no phones and is only reachable by boat. The setting is the 1950s, and the fashions are lovingly recreated while the island is filmed beautifully.

Infidelity and betrayal

So, Crimes of Passion, which is based on the novels of Maria Lang from the late 1940s and 1950s,

Puck has been invited to a party, which turns into a murder spree

looks terrific. It’s the story that feels light and formulaic. Puck discovers one of the guests, Marianne, has been murdered in the woods. Her boyfriend Eje calls in his detective friend Christer. After some shenanigans with the body going missing, it becomes clear the guests are a dissolute lot with a tendency towards infidelity and betrayal.

Misdirection is the cliche of whodunit and the characters who are absolute stinkers and look bang to rights are, inevitably, not the culprit. It’s the same here, with a lot of dull questioning, much running about the island and furtive comings and goings, before a second guest is shot in the woods (strange that no one hears the gun being fired).

For non-fans of the whodunit, the genre is just a puzzle with stock characters. Is the killer flirty Lil, shifty Rutger or annoying Carl? The acting is OK, the victims are plot devices and the set-ups contrived.

Beautifully made whodunit

Christer (OLA RAPACE)
Looking for clues – Christer

But it would be a surprise if Crimes of Passion does not find an audience for its stunning setting,
lovely costumes and the traditional format.

Others will undoubtedly miss the emotional pull and the chilly strangeness of the worlds of Sarah Lund and Saga Noren.

Cast: Ola Repace Christer Wijk, Tuva Novotny Puck Ekstedt, Linus Wahlgren Einar `Eje’ Bure, Suzanna Dilber Ann, Ida Engvoll Lil, Peter Viitanen Carl Herman

Follow @crimetimeprev

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