Beck, BBC4, with Peter Haber

BECK Buried Alive Channels: BBC FourMartin Beck (PETER HABER), Gunvald Larsson (MIKAEL PERSBRANDT) (L-R)

Good cop, impulsive cop: Beck (Peter Haber) and Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt)

The latest Swedish crime series to hit BBC4 is based on a classic series of books

★★★½ BBC4, starts Saturday, 12 September, 9pm

BECK is the latest Scandi-noir series to fill BBC4’s Saturday-night slot. Since The Killing alerted the channel’s viewers to the distinctive mood and quality of Nordic TV dramas five years ago now, a new audience has been cultivated for death with subtitles in a cold climate.

Martin Beck (PETER HABER), Lena Klingström (STINA RAUTELIN), Gunvald Larsson (MIKAEL PERSBRANDT), Oskar Bergman (MÅNS NATHANAELSON)

Team work: Beck, Klingstrom, Larsson and Bergman

Martin Beck is, of course, the character featured in the groundbreaking Swedish crime novels written by husband-and-wife Marxists Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö back in the 1960s. These two crime-writing pioneers wrote a superb series of novels that often delved into society’s sore points, such as police corruption, while following Beck’s investigations.

The books are well worth exploring and this new series, set in the present day, is a polished adaptation, with Peter Haber – who starred in the Swedish version of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo – playing Beck. Mikael Persbrandt co-stars as Beck’s rough, tough colleague Larsson, a guy who, on taking out a biker in an alley fight, says, ‘Sometimes you have to make your mark.’

Beck’s on the trail of a serial killer

The first story, Buried Alive, starts with the discovery by a child of a crate buried in her playground’s sandpit. Her mother thinks she can hear a noise from inside and Beck and Larsson are soon on the scene. The crate contains the body of a prosecutor who’s been investigating a criminal biker gang. [Read more…]

• Crime Zapper – Death in Paradise, To Catch a Thief, Nordic Noir •

• Filming starts in the spring for the first joint production between the BBC and France Television of an eight-part drama called Death in Paradise. It is described as a fish-out-of-water story about an English cop posted to the Caribbean island of Sainte Marie. What to anyone else might be paradise, for detective inspector Richard Gill is hell. He hates th sun, sea and sand, and can’t adapt to the local style of policing. But he is a brilliant detective, whose first case is to uncover who killed another British cop. Sophie Gigon from France Television says, ‘This is a great example of our international co-production work, based on the universal theme of crime investigation with a comedy touch. We’ve combined English and French creative talent to aim for a production that will be light-hearted but meaningful.’ Death in Paradise is Robert Thorogood’s first TV credit and follows his discovery via the Red Planet Pictures annual writing competition. Casting to be announced…

• Monday’s Nordic Noir doc on BBC Four was terrific, an insightful tour through Scandinavia’s ground-breaking and popular crime writers back to Sjowall and Wahloo. Participants included Karim Fossum, Jo Nesbo, Maj Sjowall, Barry Forshaw and others. Catch it on iPlayer (though I’m not sure this is available to users outside the UK), and look out for the follow-up, Italian Noir, on Boxing Day night.

• Vintage crime hounds may be interested in two radio adaptations coming up soon. BBC Radio 4 is dramatising David Dodge’s 1952 novel To Catch a Thief, which Alfred Hitchcock turned into a glittering suspense movie starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. American John Robie is living quietly in the south of France trying to live down his career as a notorious jewel thief, when a series of copycat burglaries lead the police to suspect that he is back to his old ways. To catch his imitator he tries to lay a trap, which is complicated by the daughter of one rich American tourist taking a fancy to him. Jeff Harding plays John Robie, Jennifer Lee Jellicorse plays Francie Stevens, Laura Brook is Mrs Stevens, Alun Raglan is Paul, Simon Armstrong is Bellini, Aurelie Amblard plays Danielle. Catch it on Saturday, January 8, at 2.30pm.
Meanwhile, to mark the 50th anniversary of Dashiel Hammett‘s death on January 10, BBC Radio 7 has a two-hour dramatisation of another tale that became one of the great crime films, The Maltese Falcon. This goes out of Sunday 9 at 1pm and stars Tom Wilkinson.

• As if walking to work in London’s freak snow blizzards this winter is not bad enough, I stumbled into this 10ft monster this morning. What chillled my spine, apart from the sub-zero temperature, was that I am currently reading Jo Nesbo‘s The Snowman. For those who haven’t got round to this best-seller yet, it’s the story of detective Harry Hole tracking a sinister serial killer whose calling cards are disturbing snowmen. OK, this one’s got a friendly smile, but so did Norman Bates.

• Best seasonal wishes to everyone who has visited crimetimepreview. In its first four months the site’s had 15,000 hits, and there are some terrific new crime series lining up for 2011. They’ll all be covered, we’ll have interviews and a YouTube channel of promos and trailers, and much more. Happy viewing.


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