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…]

Jordskott, ITV Encore, with Moa Gammel

Jordskott, ITV Encore

Eva Thörnblad (Moa Gammel) in the haunting woods

Riveting Nordic crime drama is back with this atmospheric tale of child abduction and conspiracy.

★★★★ ITV Encore, starts Wednesday, 10 June, 10pm

WHEN The Killing crept into BBC4’s schedules without fanfare in 2011 it famously became a word-of-mouth sensation, making a star of Sofie Gråbøl and igniting our near obsession with subtitled Nordic dramas.

The Bridge, Borgen, Arne Dahl have since become the stand-out successes from Northern Europe. Along the way, British viewers also fell in love with series such as Spiral and Inspector Montalbano from France and Italy.

But while Scandi devotees are stuck waiting for the next series of The Bridge (which will sadly be without Kim Bodnia, and is due late 2015/early 2016) and Arne Dahl (series 2: 2015), the new network ITV Encore has uncovered another quality thriller from Sweden.

Moa Gammel as detective Eva Thornblad

Jordskott immediately hits its stride as an engrossing drama with that quality of Nordic mystique. A vast ancient forest, a child’s disappearance, murky business dealings and a haunted blonde heroine – it’s the full smorgasbord.

Moa Gammel is police inspector Eva Thornblad, whose daughter disappeared by a lake, Silverhöjd, near her hometown seven years ago. When we meet Eva, she is confronting a deranged father, who shoots her.

During her convalescence, she has to return to her hometown to sort out her father’s estate. Conventional wisdom has it that her daughter, Josefine, drowned at the lake, and perhaps Eva has even made herself believe this.

[Read more…]

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

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Arne Dahl – The Blinded Man, BBC4 PREVIEW

Arne Dahl, TV series, shot of the six detectives and boss Jenny Hultin
The magnificent six brought together by boss Jenny Hultin, centre

Rating: ★★★½ 

BBC4: starts Saturday, 6 April (to be confirmed)

Story: A special police unit is set up after three businessmen are murdered on consecutive nights. Detective Jenny Hultin leads the so-called A Unit to investigate the killings while the financial world panics.

BBC4’s Nordic invasion of Saturday nights shows no signs of abating as this latest thriller, from Sweden this time, arrives. Where The Killing gave us the iconic Sarah Lund and The Bridge had the odd couple of Saga Noren and Martin Rohde, Arne Dahl is an action-driven ensemble piece.

A crack squad of six detectives is recruited by senior officer Jenny Hultin to investigate a series of shootings of leading businessmen. The magnificent six is an amalgam of talents, including legal whiz Aarto, strongman Gunnar, computer hound Jorge and action man Paul, whose dominates the opener, The Blinded Man.

We meet him as he goes all Clint Eastwood during a hostage situation, when he shoots a man fighting extradition. He’s rescued by Jenny Hultin from an Internal Affairs investigation and brings his obsessive, marriage-jeopardising intensity to catching the Fat Cat Killer.

Arne Dahl's Viggo meets the mafia in The Blinded Man
Viggo in trouble with the mob

Estonian mafia
Working round the clock the ‘A Unit’ run into the mafia in Estonia and try to work out how a Russian bank robber’s murder by a dart to the eye, of all things, may tie in. One of the team, the usually desk-bound Viggo, ends up having a very nasty encounter with the mobsters in Tallinn. And there is the conundrum of a Theolonius Monk CD, Mysterioso, left playing when the assassin is interrupted during the murder of his fifth victim.

The Blinded Man, a one of a series of dramas based on novels by Swedish novelist Arne Dahl (the pen name of writer/critic Jan Arnald). It unfolds in two 90-minute films, leaving plenty of scope to flesh the odd bunch of detectives.

There’s nose-picking Viggo, former steroid abuser Gunnar, and the oddball father of five Aarto, who calls his children by number rather than name because it’s ‘rational’. Paul does not like Jorge, and ace interrogator Kerstin finds time for a fling with another member of the Unit.

Bit corny at the end

Arne Dahl's Paul and Kerstin in The Blinded Man
Paul and Kerstin get ready to move in

In the best tradition of all those Dirty Dozen-type actioners, even our own New Tricks, part of the fun is watching this bunch of rough diamonds bonding once the heat is on. It all gets a bit corny by the end as detectives who were staring daggers at each other one minute, abruptly find themselves moving into man-crush territory before the end credits.

Just as the novels of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson have ushered in a flood of less-than-brilliant Nordic crime novels, so The Killing has created a rush for the more stoic detectives from the frozen north.

That’s not to say Arne Dahl is not a good Saturday night crime bash. But it has none of brooding depth and deep characterisation of The Killing, or the freshness of The Bridge.

Cast: Malin Arvidsson Kerstin Holm, Irene Lindh Jenny Hultin,Claes Ljungmark Viggo Norlander, Shanti Roney Paul Hjelm, Magnus Samuelsson Gunnar Nyberg, Matias Varela Jorge Chavez, Niklas Åkerfelt Aarto Söderstedt, Björn Andersson Rickard Franzén, Anders Beckman Kuno Daggfelt, Nikolai Bentsler Alexander Brjusov, Sofia Berg-Böhm Doctor, Andreas Björklund Reporter, Mats Blomgren Dan Mörner, Suzanna Dilber Veronica Mårtensson, Magnus Ehrner Nils-Emil Carlberg

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Wallander returns in July

Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) and Ann-Britt Hoglund (Sarah Smart). Pic: BBC/Left Bank

The third series of Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander is back on BBC1 on Sunday, 8 July. The first of three investigations based on the stories of Swedish author Henning Mankell, An Event in Autumn, will get the season rolling. Kurt is seeking a new life in the countryside, only to find a corpse buried at the back of his garden… No wonder he’s always a bit glum. CrimeTimePreview will have a full preview of the opener tomorrow. In the meantime, who is the best Wallander ever? Comments below, please…

  • Swedish TV’s Krister Henriksson
  • Swedish mini series’ Rolf Lassgård
  • BBC’s Kenneth Branagh

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