Bron III Broen – The Bridge is back!

The Bridge 3

It’s back…! Bron III Broen (The Bridge series 3) returns to UK screens tonight after what seems like a very long wait. Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) may no longer be around, but the wonderful Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) will be strutting her stuff as usual – in her highly individual way.

The first and second episodes will air today, Saturday 21 November, on BBC4 between 9.00 and 11.00pm. The series contains 10 episodes in total, which are in Swedish and Danish with English subtitles.

Here, for your delectation, is the BBC4 trailer ‘A new Saga begins’ (terrible pun)…

And here’s an overview of the series from the BBC:

>> The Bridge 3: When Helle Anker, the founder of the first gender-neutral kindergarten in Copenhagen and a high-profile debater on gender issues, is found murdered in Sweden, the Danish and Swedish police are compelled to join forces once more for a third series of The Bridge. The brutal killing turns out to be only the first in a series of gruesome crimes, strung together in a case which involves Saga Norén of the Malmo Police personally and which will change her forever. A powerful, intriguing and unpredictable tale of crime, played out by fascinating and complex characters, the new season will revolve around the concept and structures of family – new, old, deviant, classical, constructive and destructive. At its heart, The Bridge carries a central theme of personal responsibility and its consequences. <<

The Radio Times also features a piece on Sofia Helin winningly entitled ‘I’d rather be a feminist icon than a sex symbol’. There’s an extract here and the full interview is carried in the RT magazine.

And over at Nordic Noir, there’s an insightful interview with Sofia about the new series and dealing with Kim’s departure (may contain the odd spoiler).

Happy viewing!


Posted in By country, Denmark, Sweden, TV | Tagged , | 13 Comments

GoetheKrimi! A report on the Goethe-Institut/New Books in German crime event

The Goethe Institut/New Books in German crime fiction evening – ‘In the Library with the Lead Piping’ – took place in London last week and was a rip-roaring success. We had an audience of around fifty, who gamely took part in our murder mystery and listened with rapt attention to authors Mechtild Borrmann, Mario Giordano, Michael Ridpath and Louise Welsh as they read from and discussed their work.


Who killed Macneath? The evening began with a murder in the library…


…before moving on to the readings and a discussion.

The panel discussion focused on Mechtild Borrmann’s ‘Kleve’ police procedurals and her historical novel Silence (Amazon Crossing); Michael Ridpath’s spy novel Traitor’s Gate and his Icelandic ‘Fire and Ice’ series; Mario Giordano’s screenwriting for the TV crime series Tatort (Crime Scene) and his comic crime novel Aunt Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (Bitter Lemon Press, 2016); and Louise Welsh’s psychological thrillers The Bullet Trick and The Girl on the Stairs.

As moderator, I thoroughly enjoyed putting some juicy questions to the authors about their works… 

We explored why British authors Michael and Louise chose to write novels set in Germany (Traitor’s GateThe Bullet Trick and The Girl on the Stairs); the authors’ use of settings (from urban Berlin and small-town Germany to the island of Sicily); German regional crime and the Soziokrimi or social crime novel (the ‘Kleve’ series and Tatort); the use of crime fiction to celebrate plural cultural identities (Aunt Poldi); the role of transgressive women in German film and crime (Pandora‘s Box, The Girl on the Stairs, Aunt Poldi); the challenges of writing about the Nazi past (Traitor’s Gate, Silence) and on contemporary Iceland (‘Fire and Ice’ series). We also discussed whether the former East Germany could be the next big thing in historical crime fiction or whether it was still too early to focus on this era (the authors had differing views on this point). The audience put some great questions too, asking to what extent the authors worked together with their translators, whether or not they wrote with their future readers in mind, and the nature of Ingrid Noll’s influence on contemporary German crime writing (huge).


Ernst the duck was the evening’s mascot – a potent reminder of the pitfalls of national stereotyping…

All in all, it was an excellent evening. Huge thanks to everyone who came along, and to Jens Boyer at the Goethe Institut London and Charlotte Ryland of New Books in German for organising such a fantastic event – Charlotte also did sterling work as a translator during the panel discussion!

We managed to interview each of the authors about their works ahead of the event – I’ll add some links to the podcasts here soon.

And here’s a good blog post by Alyson Coombes on one of Mechtild’s novels – The Other Half of Hope – which will hopefully be translated soon.

Goethe Krimi (10)

Left to right: Jens Boyer, Kat Hall, Charlotte Ryland, Louise Welsh, Mechtild Borrmann, Mario Giordano and Michael Ridpath. Photo by

Goethe-Insitut-50-LOGO-004      new-books-in-german

In other news, the final proofs of the Crime Fiction in German volume have just arrived from the University of Wales Press. All that remains to be done is the index, a job I enjoy as it always throws up entertaining entries. I’ll leave you to wonder how ‘Elvis Presley’, ‘Cagney and Lacey’ and ‘Dragnet‘ fit into the history of German-language crime writing!

German CF cover final

Posted in By country, East Germany, Germany, Historical, Sicily | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

‘In the library with the lead piping’: German crime fiction event at the Goethe Institut London

Excitement is mounting, as ‘In the library with the lead piping’, a fabulous German crime fiction event at the Goethe Institut London, is now only a week away.


The event features two German authors – Mechtild Borrmann and Mario Giordano – and two British authors – Michael Ridpath and Louise Welsh (who’ve both written crime with a German twist). They will be reading from their works and taking part in a panel discussion (see this earlier post of mine for some author details).

.         Silence  Shadows of war  poldi  Girl Welsh

As chair for the event, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks happily reading my way through the authors’ novels. What’s struck me most, aside from the quality of the works, is their wonderful diversity. Police procedurals, spy novels, psychological thrillers, historical crime novels and comedy crime fiction are all represented, with German settings and themes used in a variety of innovative ways. It’s going to be a fascinating evening!

If you’re in London on Tuesday 10. November and would like to come along, all you need to do grab a ticket via Eventbrite. Entry is FREE.

Further details of the event are available on the Goethe Institut website.

Watch out for some teaser tweets on Twitter. Our hashtag is #GoetheKrimi.

Posted in By country, England, Germany, Scotland | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Tasty treats: Sherlock Holmes, Chinese crime, John le Carré and some publishing news

All sorts of interesting bits of crime news have come my way in the last couple of weeks…and are now gathered here for your delectation.


A three-volume collection of over 60 new Sherlock Holmes stories appeared on 1st October, edited by David Marcum (MX Publishing). As well as being an absolute feast for Holmes fans, the collection supports a brilliant cause: all royalties will be used to fund preservation projects at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home, Undershaw. You can read more details of how the Undershaw rescue mission and new collection came about – a heady tale of determined fans, thwarted property developers and support from Mark Gatiss (co-creator of the TV drama Sherlock) – in this Radio Times article.

Thanks to Martin Rosenstock for alerting me to the new Sherlock adventures. Martin is one of the authors featured in the collection, and has also contributed an excellent chapter on Swiss crime fiction to our forthcoming Crime Fiction in German volume. In fact, he opens that chapter with a reference to Sherlock Holmes’ apparent demise at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, creating a rather lovely virtuous circle!


Chinese President Xi has been on the receiving end of a charm offensive during his recent visit to the UK, as various deals are sealed including a 25 billion pound nuclear power station at Hinckley Point in Somerset. So I was very interested to see this piece by Bruce Jacobs, entitled ‘Qiu Xiaolong’s Detective Chen novels give clues to unravelling the mysteries of China‘. I read the first in the Chen series, Death of a Red Heroine, a good while ago, and remember liking it, but hadn’t realised that there are now nine in the series. Jacobs shows how the Chen novels give ‘excellent insights into China from the time of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution to the present’, and, as the covers above indicate, explore the interaction of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Chinas. Thanks to Craig Sisterson for posting this piece on Facebook.

John le C

Regular readers to this blog will know that I am a huge John le Carré fan – you can read my appreciation of his novels here. A major new biography by Adam Sisman has just been published by Bloomsbury, which examines le Carré’s life and his career as a spy and writer in detail. There’s a long piece by Sisman in The Guardian today entitled ‘From cold war spy to angry old man: the politics of John le Carré’, which explores how the author’s political views have become more left-wing over time. Sisman uses a great German term to account for this – Alterszorn (the rage of age) – and provides some excellent insights into a number of le Carré’s novels. Well worth a read.


‘My emergency plan: A Prosecco to wake up. Then an expresso with a shot. Around eleven, the first beer. And so on in stages’. Yours, Aunt Poldi

And finally, some publishing news generated by the Frankfurt book fair:

  • No Exit Press has acquired The Harbour Master and Night Market by Daniel Pembrey. They are the first and second installments of ‘The Amsterdam Quartet’ featuring police detective Henk van der Pol.
  • Bitter Lemon Press has acquired the English-language rights to the hilarious German crime novel Aunt Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, which will be published in 2016. Author Mario Giordano will be in London on 10th November at the Goethe Institut to talk about the book. It’s a free event – for further details see here.
  • Orenda Books has secured a three-book deal for Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu Botswana crime novels Deadly Harvest, A Death in the Family and Dying To Live.
  • And Orenda has also acquired World English Language rights for Norwegian crime writer Thomas Enger’s next two titles in the ‘Henning Juul’ series, Coat of Arms and Mortal Wound.
Posted in Botswana, By country, China, England, Netherlands, Norway, Sicily, Switzerland | Tagged | 12 Comments

Marlon James wins 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings

It’s rare that I post twice in one week, but I couldn’t let the news pass that a Jamaican literary crime novel has won the 2015 Man BookerMarlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (OneWorld).

Marlon James-A Brief History of Seven Killings

It’s the second time in recent years that a novel featuring strong elements of crime has won the prize – the other being Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries in 2013. It’s also the first time a Jamaican author has won the prize in its 47-year history.

I picked up A Brief History of Seven Killings in the summer without realising it was a contender for the Man Booker. At that point I was simply intrigued by the novel’s title, its striking cover, and the central event it examines – the attempted murder of reggae superstar Bob Marley in Jamaica in 1976. Here’s the Man Booker summary of the novel to give you an idea of its scope:

>> On 3 December 1976, just weeks before the general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica concert to ease political tensions, seven men from West Kingston stormed his house with machine guns. Marley survived and went on to perform at the free concert. But the next day he left the country and didn’t return for two years.

Inspired by this near-mythic event, A Brief History of Seven Killings takes the form of an imagined oral biography, told by ghosts, witnesses, killers, members of parliament, drug dealers, conmen, beauty queens, FBI and CIA agents, reporters, journalists, and even Keith Richards’ drug dealer. The story traverses strange landscapes and shady characters, as motivations are examined – and questions asked. <<


Marlon James by Jeffrey Skemp (Man Booker Prize)

I’m about half way through the novel at the moment and am finding it a rich and challenging reading experience – in the best possible sense:

  • It’s anything but a ‘brief history’. The novel is 686 pages long and features over 75 characters, fifteen of which have narrative voices. There’s a helpful ‘cast of characters’ at the beginning that’s four pages long.
  • The opening chapter secured my attention right away. It’s narrated by a dead man: murdered former politician Sir Arthur Jennings (‘nobody falls that way without being pushed’). Criminal acts and criminality are at the heart of the novel.
  • The first three sections are set in Kingston, Jamaica, and show life in the ghetto, offering a brilliant, but *extremely* hard-hitting depiction of how grinding poverty, gang violence and political turbulence are entwined. Many of the narrators use Jamaican patois and have a stream of consciousness style, which may take a little while to get used to, but is rewarding once you do.
  • The novel illuminates race, class and gender relations via a number of characters, including a gay gang member and a young woman who had a brief liaison with ‘The Singer’. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing where Nina Burgess’ story goes. You can read an extract from one of her chapters here.
  • And then of course there’s the world of ‘The Singer’, his possibly naive attempts to intervene in politics, and the stories of the men who attack him, which are the novel’s principal structuring device.


Here’s a selection of articles on the author and the novel:

Craig Sisterson, ‘Crime Novel wins Man Booker!‘, Crime Watch blog: an exploration of the novel’s crime credentials and reactions to the win.

Nicholas Blincoe reviews the novel for The Telegraph and compares it to James Ellroy’s LA Quartet. Warning: contains spoilers, but also helpful information about the historical and political contexts in which the novel is set.

Paula Cocozza, ‘Man Booker Winner Marlon James’: ‘I was the nerd, I wasn’t into sports, assumed gay’The Guardian. Profile of the author, which notes that the novel was rejected 78 times before securing a publishing deal.

Michiko Kakutani, ‘Jamaica via a Sea of Voices’New York Times, in which the novel is described as being ‘like a Tarantino remake of “The Harder They Come” but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner, with maybe a little creative boost from some primo ganja’.

Tim Martin, A Brief History of Seven Killings is violent, shocking – and a worthy winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize’, The Telegraph. Again, comparisons are made to Ellroy: ‘Following Ellroy, it involves itself deeply in the intricate plotlines of the crime genre’.

In sum, an extraordinary novel, and it’s wonderful to see it win such a major literary prize.

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews, By country, Historical, Jamaica | 19 Comments

Smörgåsbord: New BBC crime (River, Arne Dahl) & German Histo-Krimis

There are some tasty morsels on offer this week…

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 04/08/2015 - Programme Name: River - TX: n/a - Episode: River - First Look (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 4th AUGUST, 2015 John River (STELLAN SKARSGARD) - (C) Kudos - Photographer: Nick Briggs

John River (STELLAN SKARSGARD) – (C) Kudos – Photographer: Nick Briggs

Tonight (Tuesday 13 October, 9.00-10.00) sees the start of an intriguing new six-part crime drama on BBC One.

River is set in London, but stars well-known Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård as police officer John River – just the latest evidence of the mark Scandinavia is making on our crime culture. The series is a police procedural with a twist, because it seems that River is able to commune with the dead, including his former colleague ‘Stevie’ Stevenson (played by Nicola Walker, who’s also the police lead in Unforgotten over on ITV at the moment). I’m very interested to see how the excellent Cardiff-born screenwriter Abi Morgan pulls this idea off, which we see surfacing in crime series every now and then – the 1969/70 TV series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) springs to mind, as do the historical crime novels of Maurizio de Giovanni, featuring Commissario Riccardi. The image of detectives haunted by the victims of cases they haven’t yet managed to solve is a very powerful one, and in the hands of these actors, could be very effective indeed.

There’s a nice interview with Stellan Skarsgård by Jake Kerridge in today’s The Telegraph.

UPDATE: I’ve just watched Episode 1 and am VERY excited. This is one of the best British crime dramas I’ve seen in a long time (probably since Happy Valley). It has a hugely original premise, which is flawlessly executed, and the writing and acting are both top-notch. The opening, which involves an ABBA reference, Tina Charles’ ‘I Love to Love’ and a gritty chase scene, had me completely gripped, and if anything, things just got better from there. Skarsgård is particularly good, projecting an almost tangible sense of grief following the loss of his colleague Stevie, but there are a number of other great characters too, from Stevie herself to River’s no-nonsense boss and new partner Ira (look out for a breathtakingly audacious quip after they are introduced). The cinematography and styling are also wonderful: London takes on a Bladerunner feel in places and there is a striking use of colour (reds, greens and blues in particular). Original – stylish – brilliantly written and acted: make sure you watch this SOON.


The A-Unit team, series 2

Over on BBC Four, Beck is making way for Arne Dahl, which starts on Saturday, 17. October at 9.00. This is the second series about the Swedish A-Unit – an ensemble police drama with a number of quirky characters, including a new team-member I’m pleased to see is a languages expert. I have to confess that I never completely got into series 1, but know that plenty of viewers did. The first episode involves the murders of a number of Polish women and is in Swedish and Polish with subtitles. In it, we also see Kerstin Holm take up her new role as A-Unit leader.


Lastly, historical crime fans may be interested in a piece that Marina Sofia and I have written about German Histo-Krimis over at ‘Crime Fiction Lover. Our flimsy cover was a celebration of the Oktoberfest (cue naff picture of Bier maidens), but what we really wanted to do was tell everyone about the MASSES of great historical crime fiction that’s been produced in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, especially since reunification. Some of the novels are already in translation, others are not (needless to say, we’re working hard on getting the latter published in English…).

Posted in Africa, By country, England, Germany, Historical, Sweden, TV | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Henning Mankell, 1948-2015

Some extremely sad news today. Swedish crime author Henning Mankell has died at the age of 67. 


Mankell is of course best known for his ‘Kurt Wallander’ police procedural series, set in the small town of Ystad in southern Sweden. Aside from its high quality and the wonderfully complex characterisation of Inspector Wallander, the series is marked by its social conscience, a deep empathy for others, and an outward-looking view, which connected Ystad with Europe and the rest of the world, most notably Africa, a continent Mankell loved and where he spent a great deal of time. The series was and remains ground-breaking, tackling subjects such as xenophobia, violence, terrorism, the globalisation of crime and the historical legacies of the twentieth century. It is rightly viewed as one of the great series in international crime fiction – elegantly bridging Sjowall and Wahloo’s 1970s ‘Beck’ series and more recent Nordic Noir such as Indridason’s ‘Reykjavik’ novels.


There are ten Wallander novels. Here they are with their original date of publication and their atmospheric opening lines.

Faceless Killers (1990). ‘He has forgotten something, he knows that for sure when he wakes up. Something he dreamt during the night. Something he ought to remember.’

The Dogs of Riga (1992). ‘It started snowing shortly after 10am. The man in the wheel-house of the fishing boat cursed. He’d heard the forecast, but hoped they might make the Swedish coast before the storm hit.’

The White Lioness (1993). ‘Louise Akerblom, an estate agent, left the Savings Bank in Skurup shortly after 3.00 in the afternoon on Friday, April 24.’

The Man who Smiled (1994). ‘Fog. A silent, stealthy beast of prey. Even though I have lived all my life in Skane, where fog is forever closing in and shuttering out the world, I’ll never get used to it.’

Sidetracked (1995). ‘Just before dawn. Pedro Santana woke. The kerosene lamp had started to smoke. When he opened his eyes, he didn’t know where he was’.

The Fifth Woman (1996). ‘The letter arrived in Ystad on 19 August 1993. Since it had an African stamp and must be from her mother, she hadn’t opened it immediately. She wanted to have peace and quiet to read it.’

One Step Behind (1997). ‘On Wednesday, 7 August 1996, Kurt Wallander came close to being killed in a traffic accident just east of Ystad.’

Firewall (1998). ‘The wind died down towards evening, then stopped completely. He was standing on the balcony. Some days he could see a sliver of ocean between the buildings across the way.’

The Pyramid (1999). ‘In the beginning, everything was just a fog. Or perhaps it was like a thick-flowing sea where all was white and silent. The landscape of death.’

The Troubled Man (2009). ‘The story begins with a sudden fit of rage. The cause of it was a report that had been submitted the previous evening, which the prime minister was now reading at his poorly lit desk.’

Huge thanks are due to the translators who brought us the Wallander novels and expertly translated the lines above: Steven T. Murray, Ebba Segerberg and Laurie Thompson.

K wallander

Further links (I will keep adding to these – if you find good ones, do leave them in the comments section below).

I’m off to liberate some Aquavit from the back of the drinks cupboard and to watch an episode of Wallander with Krister Henriksson…

Posted in 5 stars, By country, Sweden | Tagged | 31 Comments

Kriminally good: NBG Krimi issue, Goethe Institut Krimi panel and David Young’s The Stasi Child

The autumn issue of New Books in German is out – a very special edition that celebrates the best of contemporary German-language crime fiction. In it you can read mouth-watering features, interviews and summaries of the hottest Krimis lining up to be translated into English.


The contents are available online and include: 

A pair of features on British and German-language crime – Barry Forshaw’s ‘A New Golden Age? Contemporary British Crime Fiction’ and my own piece on ‘Quality, Diversity and Untapped Potential: the Contemporary Krimi’. Entertaining mugshots included…

A feature on ‘Killer Thrillers from Austria – an evening with Ursula Poznanski

Interviews with Daniela Rapp (editor at St. Martin’s Press in New York), Alison Hennessey (Senior Editor at Harvill Secker) and Imogen Rose Taylor (translator of Sascha Arango’s The Truth and Other Lies) on bringing international crime fiction to English-language audiences.

You can also browse individual Krimis (spoiler alert!) and take a comprehensive look at UK publishers of crime fiction and thrillers in translation, including Arcadia Books, Bitter Lemon Press, Harvill Secker, Hesperus Press, MacLehose Press, No Exit Press, Sinon & Schuster, Orion, World Noir/Europa Editions, Orenda and Vertigo Pushkin.

And as if all that goodness wasn’t enough, the Goethe-Institut London and New Books in German are hosting a Krimi evening on Tuesday 10th November. Snappily titled ‘In the Library with the Lead Piping’, the event will feature readings and a panel on German and British crime fiction with authors Mechtild Borrmann, Mario Giordano, Michael Ridpath and Louise Welsh.


Mechtild Borrmann is the German author of a number of novels, including the best-selling historical crime novel Wer das Schweigen bricht (Silence), which was the winner of the 2012 Deutscher Krimi Preis (German Crime Fiction Prize).


Mario Giordano is a German author and screenwriter, who has written for crime series such as Tatort (Crime Scene) and Schimanski. His crime novel Tante Poldi und die sizilianischen Löwen (Aunt Poldi and the Sicilian Lions) was published this year.

s_shadows_of_war_bookMichael Ridpath is the British author of financial thrillers, the Icelandic ‘Fire and Ice’ crime series, and two spy novels, Traitor’s Gate and Shadows of War, which are set in Europe at the beginning of the Second World War.

Girl Welsh

Louise Welsh is a Scottish writer who draws on crime fiction, psychological thrillers, apocalypse fiction and the Gothic. Two of her works, The Bullet Trick and The Girl on the Stairsare set in Berlin.

I have the good fortune to be the moderator for the event and am looking forward to it greatly. If you’re in London, do come along! Further details are available here. Entry is free, but booking is essential (simply email


And finally… Over the past few days I’ve been reading a preview copy of David Young’s novel Stasi Child, which has the highly original setting of 1975 East Germany, and is proving to be a gripping and hugely absorbing read. It’s published on 1st October by twenty7 and has just been optioned for TV by Euston Films.

Here’s the cover blurb to whet your appetites:

>> When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: it seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People’s Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed – and strongly discourage her asking questions.

The evidence doesn’t add up, and Müller soon realises the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home… <<

The novel is the first in a trilogy, and I’m already keen to meet Karin Müller and her team again. If you’re interested in how David came up with his ideas and wrote the novel, then check out his feature over on the twenty7 blog.

Marina Sofia has also just posted a great review of The Stasi Child over at findingtimetowrite.

Posted in By country, England, Germany, Scotland | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Welsh delights: Series 2 of Y Gwyll (Hinterland) and Graffeg’s The Starlings & Other Stories

Last weekend was a bumper weekend for TV crime drama in the UK. Swedish crime drama Beck aired on BBC4 on Saturday, and the second series of Welsh crime drama Y Gywll / Hinterland began on Sunday on S4C.

hinterland (1)

I hugely enjoyed the first series of Y Gwyll/Hinterland, which followed brooding DCI Tom Mathias and his team through a series of investigations in and around Aberystwyth in Wales. Well written and beautifully shot, with a brooding Cymru Noir feel, it’s polished crime drama that’s well worth viewing (see my earlier post here).

The second series kicked off in style, with Mathias (Richard Harrington) dealing with the dramatic fall-out from his previous case and investigating the murder of a bus driver. We also begin to find out more about Mathias’ troubled past, when his wife arrives from London out of the blue. I was pleased to see this aspect of the narrative getting more attention, as it was the only thing I felt was under-developed in series 1, and will help to add definition to Mathias’ character  – and to that of his partner DI Mari Rhys (Mali Harris), who’s also dealing with family problems.

Those of you who saw series 1 will remember that two different versions were aired – one in Welsh and one in English. The series now on S4C at 9.00pm on Sunday nights is in Welsh with English subtitles – and I do recommend watching this one if you can to get a real flavour of the language. If you’d like to catch up, you can do so via Clic, S4C’s online version of BBC iPlayer (the subtitle button is on the bottom right of the screen next to the volume). You can see the subtitled trailer for episode 1 below.

English version Hinterland (which still has some subtitled Welsh bits) will be broadcast on BBC Cymru Wales and BBC Four at a later date, yet to be confirmed.


Welsh publisher Graffeg has dipped its toe into fiction with an intriguing collaboration. In The Starling & Other Stories, edited by Ann Cleeves, twelve crime authors have contributed stories inspired by David Wilson’s bleakly beautiful photographs of Pembrokeshire, and the result is an aesthetic delight: a high-quality softback that features twelve black and white photos ahead of the resulting tales. It’s very lovely and would make a pleasing gift (check out the online sample here).

The authors are ‘The Murder Squad’ – Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Margaret Murphy and Kate Ellis – and six ‘accomplices’ – Christine Poulson, Helena Edwards, Valerie Laws, Jim Kelly, Mary Sharratt and Toby Forward. So far, I’ve dipped into ‘Homecoming’ by Cath Staincliffe and ‘The Starlings’ by Ann Cleeves (the latter featuring one of my favourite police investigators, Vera Stanhope) – both of which were great. Having the photographs as a starting point is also very effective: I found myself looking at the relevant photo in a fair bit of detail before reading the story, and was then watching out to see which visual or thematic elements the author picked up and how she wove them in. Great fun, and a feast for the eye and criminal imagination.

Further details about The Starlings can be found over at the Graffeg website.

Posted in By country, TV, Wales | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Review of ‘Beck’ episode ‘Buried Alive’ (Levande begravd) on BBC4

Beck solo

Peter Haber as the iconic Swedish detective Martin Beck

Viewers in the UK were treated to the Swedish crime drama Beck for the first time this evening on BBC4. This highly regarded series, starring Peter Haber and Mikael Persbrandt as Inspector Martin Beck and Detective Gunvald Larsson, has been running since 1997 and draws on characters from Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s seminal ‘Martin Beck’ novels. The latter were published between 1965 and 1975 and are recognised as the forerunners to Henning Mankell’s ‘Wallander’ novels and countless other Scandi police procedurals foregrounding social issues.

A total of twenty-six Beck films were made between 1997 and 2010, with a new set of dramas airing in Scandinavia at the beginning of 2015. The episode we saw tonight – ‘Buried Alive’ (Levande begravd– is number 26 from 2010. My review is below. It avoids major spoilers, but if you’d rather watch first then look away now.

Beck_–_Levande_begravd dvd

The first thing to note about Beck is that it’s very different in tone to BBC4’s previous crime drama, the Italian Young Montalbano (sunshine, pasta and the odd murder).

Yes, fasten your seatbelts – this is Scandi Noir with a capital N.

While ‘Buried Alive’ does contain some moments of humour (look out for the guest appearance of a cucumber), the dominant atmosphere is dark, violent and extremely scary. The opening scene sets the tone for the whole episode: public prosecutor Annika Runfelt is shown being abducted late at night; her body is found the following morning in a coffin that has been buried in the sandpit of a children’s playground. The main suspect is the leader of a notorious motorcycle gang, but it soon becomes clear that the solution is going to be far more complicated…

While the plot contained elements I’m not usually keen on (high levels of violence, a borderline sadistic focus on the suffering of the victims and a fair old dollop of melodrama), it was kept grounded by the portrayal of the police team’s methodical investigation and by the level-headed, intelligent presence of Inspector Beck. The dynamic between him and his police colleagues Gunvald Larsson (tough guy), Lena Klingström (experienced and practical) and Oskar Bergman (nervous rookie) was very well-drawn, and it’s this that will bring me back next week rather than the plot, which wore its original ‘season finale thriller’ status rather too obviously for my liking. I’m hoping that the next episode will be a little calmer and closer to the police procedural roots of the Beck novels.

Nonetheless, a promising start, not least because one of the key bits of investigation was carried out in a bookshop. I also found myself rooting strongly for Beck after less than an hour and a half of his company, which is a very good sign, given that we are joining the series such a long way in.

Next week’s episode is called ‘Room 302’ (Rum 302). In it, Beck’s team is called to investigate the murder of a teenage girl in Room 302 of Hotel Stureplan in Stockholm. This episode is the first of the Beck dramas that aired at the beginning of 2015 (number 27 overall).

UPDATE: I’ve just watched the ‘Room 302’ and it was excellent. Made five years after ‘Buried Alive’, it feels like a reboot that properly honours the police procedural roots of the novels. The storyline is plausible and nuanced, and both Beck and Larsson get a real chance to shine – great acting all round. Good to see and I look forward to the other episodes very much.

Beck rum 302

For those interested in the original ‘Martin Beck’ novels, there are further details over at Crime Fiction Lover. Radio 4 also dramatised the series a little while back (hopefully these will be repeated soon). You can hear short clips over on the BBC Radio 4 website.

Please be aware that there are a few (minor) spoilers in the comments below :-)

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