The Killing – BBC4 Series 2 Trailer

For some reason, I’m particularly missing the wondrousness that is The Killing at the moment.

BBC4 has thoughtfully supplied a glimpse of autumn’s Series 2 to allieviate my withdrawal symptoms. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear Danish! 

‘It’s good to see you again…’

Note: BBC4 rates the clip as suitable for 16+ only.

Pssst! No word from BBC4 as yet, but there was an article in The Guardian the other day (about jumpers!), which referenced Sarah Lund as a style icon and let slip a start date of mid-November for The Killing 2.



BBC4’s The Killing – BAFTA International Winner 2011

A quick post in celebration of The Killing’s BAFTA win last night.

This low-budget Danish crime drama beat off stiff competition from Mad Men, Glee and Boardwalk Empire to take the International Prize for 2011. There couldn’t have been a more deserving winner in my view: a cracking day for quality Danish and European crime drama.

Lovely footage below of the award and a brief backstage interview with Piv Bernth (producer), Sophie Grabol (Sarah Lund), Soren Svelstrup (writer) and Birger Larsen (lead director).

(If the arrow button doesn’t take you through directly, just click on the ‘Watch on YouTube’ link that appears. Tak!)


For other Mrs. Peabody posts on this programme, click on ‘The Killing’ tag (bottom right-hand side of page). No spoilers 🙂

#7 Jussi Adler-Olsen / Mercy

Jussi Adler-Olson, Mercy, translated from the Danish by Lisa Hartford (London: Penguin, 2011 [2008]). A bravura start to the Department Q series: powerful, gripping and moving in equal measure  5 stars


Opening sentence: She scratched her fingertips on the smooth walls until they bled, and pounded her fists on the thick panes until she could no longer feel her hands.

On Friday 13th May, the author of Mercy joined John Lloyd, contributing editor on the Financial Times, to discuss his novel on BBC Radio 4. There was an entertaining clash of views: while Lloyd felt the book was ‘terribly, terribly, terribly dark’, Adler-Olsen thought Lloyd ‘completely wrong – it’s a very funny story in many aspects’. Having finished the novel today, I’ve come to the strange conclusion that they’re both right: Mercy will take you to the very darkest of places, while also somehow retaining the capacity to make you laugh out loud.

Mercy is the first in the ‘Department Q’ series, published in Denmark to great acclaim in 2008, and is the winner of a clutch of crime fiction prizes, including the Danish Reader’s Book Award. The novel introduces Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck, an outstanding investigator whose erratic behaviour following a traumatic shooting gets him kicked upstairs to lead the newly formed Department Q. Its remit: reopening and solving cold cases. Except being kicked upstairs actually means being kicked downstairs to a pokey office in the basement, without any investigative support other than chauffeur, cleaner and beverage-maker Assad.

The first case taken up by Mørck is that of rising Democrat politician Merete Lynggaard, whose sudden disappearance five years previously has never been satisfactorily explained. Everyone, including Mørck, assumes that she is dead. But is she?

Mercy is a beautifully constructed crime novel, weaving an account of Merete’s story since 2002 into Mørck’s investigations in present-day 2007. The movement between these strands creates a beguiling momentum that carries the reader forward in anticipation of the moment when – just maybe – the two narratives will intersect.

Merete’s tale is extremely dark and easily the most powerful part of the narrative: the crimes committed against her are horrifying, although the author manages to avoid the pitfall of crude misogynism through a compelling examination of how this young woman attempts to resist the powerful forces bent on her destruction.

The story of Mørck’s investigation into Merete’s case is lighter, in spite of his struggle with the trauma of a past shooting. Both his tussles with police colleagues and his developing relationship with Assad, an unlikely assistant sleuth with a few secrets of his own,  provide genuine moments of humour, although these are never allowed to interfere with the progression of a first-class police procedural.

Interestingly, I managed to work out the ‘solution’ to the mystery at the heart of Merete’s story quite early on. Even more interestingly, this didn’t matter to me in the slightest. Mercy was such a quality reading experience that my enjoyment of the text wasn’t remotely impeded. I’m already impatiently looking foward to the second novel in the series, Disgrace.

An extract from Mercy is available here. With thanks to Penguin for providing Mrs Peabody Investigates with a review copy.

Mrs. Peabody awards Mercy an outstanding 5 stars.

The end of BBC4’s The Killing: crime drama at its very best

Mrs Peabody’s review of the first two episodes is available here.

So BBC4’s The Killing has finished. Twenty hours of superb crime drama, which had 500,000 of us gripped for two hours every single week, aired its last two episodes last night.

The Killing maintained its suspense and quality in a quite remarkable fashion over each of its 20 episodes. In Sarah Lund, it gave us a gritty, obsessive and sometimes flawed investigator, who won our hearts with her single-minded determination and her jumpers. And last night, it delivered a nail-biting and utterly gripping denouement that was Shakespearian in its tragedy and pathos. We ended, with perfect circularity, in the woods where we started Nanna’s story – one last, lovely touch. 

In line with the policy of Mrs. Peabody Investigates, no spoilers are given here. But if you would like to know whodunnit and to read some cogent analysis of the last two epiosodes, the place to go is Vicky Frost’s excellent blog at The Guardian. I might add that my guess at the murderer was completely wrong (and many others on Twitter had smugly got it right). At some point, I’ll be watching the whole 20 episodes again in the knowledge of who committed the murder – which I’m sure will be an equally rewarding viewing experience.

Lund and Meyer, we’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know. Already looking forward to Series 2 later this year.

31 March: Lund makes the cover of G2! Full article available here.

BBC4 buys second series of The Killing / Forbrydelsen

Excellent news for fans of The Killing: it’s been confirmed today that BBC4 has bought the rights to the second series (10 episodes) and that it will air later this year.

‘The Killing is the most intensely thrilling televison drama experience in British broadcasting of the moment and I’m delighted that series two will be on BBC Four. It is a diamond of a series – complex, dramatic, thoroughly gripping. It never loses sight of its truly brilliant insight: the humanity and the emotion that goes on behind a police investigation into a brutal and sordid murder. At its heart, this is The Killing‘s genius – to truly portray the human cost of tragedy. And it is to the BBC’s acquisition department that real credit lies for the clever discretionary spot-and-pick-up of a gem of a series’ – Richard Klein, controller of BBC4.

For full details, see Neil Midgley’s article in The Telegraph

‘Can Scandinavian crime fiction teach socialism?’

There’s a very nice article by Deborah Orr in today’s The Guardian, which explores Scandinavian crime fiction’s role in ‘framing socio-political debate’. She takes in The Killing (‘are political coalitions healthy?’), the ‘Martin Beck’ series (Marxist critique of 1960s Swedish society), Nesbo’s works (‘sexual crime as expression of discord between men and women’) as well as a couple of others in the course of her discussion. Well worth a read.

For the Lund watchers amongst you, the article also features a picture of Lund wearing a third jumper – white diamonds on black!

#3 Davidsen / The Woman from Bratislava

Leif Davidsen, The Woman from Bratislava, trans. from the Danish by Barbara J. Haveland (London: Arcadia Books 2010 [2001]). An ambitious thriller that explores the legacy of the Second World War, but doesn’t quite live up to its early promise. 3 stars

The Woman from Bratislava (Eurocrime)

 Opening sentence: It was a story often used by security-cleared lecturers in the civilian branch of FET, by serving officers of a certain rank and other trusted members of PET when briefing new volunteers on the special conditions under which the secret services had to operate in a post-communist world.

As I’ve noted in a previous post, Davidsen has been described as ‘one of Denmark’s top crime writers’ (The Sunday Times). As a former journalist specializing in Russian and Eastern European affairs, he tends to use the crime/thriller format to explore larger political and historical issues – in the case of The Woman from Bratislava, the legacy of the Second World War, set against the backdrop of the Bosnian War and the collapse of communism in the 1990s.

More specifically, the novel uses the story of a rather unusual family as a means of approaching the complex history of Danish involvement in the Second World War. In the post-communist Bratislava of 1999, middle-aged Danish lecturer Teddy Pedersen is approached by Mira, an Eastern European woman who claims to be his half-sister. She reveals that their Danish father, a former Waffen-SS officer, had not died in 1952 as Teddy had been led to believe, but had gone on to lead a secret second life in Yugoslavia. Shortly afterwards, Teddy’s Danish sister Irma is arrested on suspicion of being a former Stasi (East German) agent, one who has possible links to ‘the woman from Bratislava’. The novel explores the father’s influence on the political development of both sisters – and via them the lingering legacy of fascism in post-war Europe. If you haven’t spotted it already, Irma and Mira are anagrams of one another, which I *think* is supposed to indicate how inextricably intertwined their fates are. Or something profound, at any rate.

This is a very ambitious novel, but one that I felt over-reached itself in places. Davidsen chooses to focus on an extremely controversial bit of Denmark’s wartime past, namely the role of thousands of Danes who fought for the Nazis as members of the Danish Legion and Waffen-SS. The author attempts to provide a 360-degree examination of this historical moment, highlighting on the one hand the war-crimes committed by these young Danes in the service of Nazi ideology, and on the other, the hypocrisy of the Danish government, who in 1941 ‘blessed’ their departure for war, only to treat them as ‘pariahs and outcasts’ when Germany was defeated in 1945 (p.100). (Denmark is shown white-washing its wartime history, recasting its years of occupation by the Germans as a period of heroic resistance, and developing a strategic amnesia to cover the less savory aspects of that past).

In some respects, I admire Davidsen’s bravery in taking on such a controversial subject, and in trying to provide a rounded discussion of how these ‘Nazi Danes’ should be viewed. But at times, I felt that the exploration of their actions needed to be more nuanced, and I wasn’t able to follow the reasons why certain individuals felt moved to defend the Waffen-SS father, or to consider his post-war treatment unjust. It’s possible that Davidsen is trying to critique these characters’ blindness to the father’s criminal wartime activities (a form of misguided love or loyalty), but I’m not entirely convinced that this is the case. At certain points, there’s also a casual, problematic elision of fascism and communism, which rather confusingly leads communist characters to exhibit fascist sympathies and/or sympathy for fascists.

As if all of this were not enough, there’s an overarching thriller/espionage plotline involving the downing of a NATO fighter plane over Yugoslavia, which ends in a (for me largely incomprehensible) twist. It was all a bit too much for this simple reader.

Summary: There’s much to admire about the ambition and scope of this thriller, but its constituent parts do not add up to a satisfactory whole. It may be best suited for readers with an interest in the legacy of the Second World War and the Cold War.

Mrs. Peabody awards The Woman from Bratislavia a rather wobbly 3 stars.

Scandinavian Crime Fiction Smorgasbord

Thanks to a tip-off from cavershamragu, I’ve spent the evening wallowing happy as a hippo in mud over at the ScandinavianBooks website.

Rubbing shoulders with Nobel Prize winners Knut Hamsun and Selga Lagerlof are a whole host of Scandinavian crime writers. Indeed, five of the six authors featured under the heading of ‘contemporary and rising authors’ turn out to be crime writers too, illustrating the extent of the Scandi crime boom (as well as the present publishing clout of writers such as Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo and Karin Fossum). 

You can browse Scandinavian crime on the site by writer or by nationality (for the latter, hover over the ‘crime’ tab at the top of the homepage). As one would expect, the Swedes are well represented (Sjowall / Wahloo, Mankell, Larsson and Nesser to name just a few), but so are the Norwegians (Dahl, Egeland, Holt, Nesbo, Fossum), the Danes (Davidsen and Peter Hoeg of Miss Smilla fame) and those amazing Icelanders (Indridason, Sigurdardottir). There are also a couple of Finnish authors, Sipila and Joensuu, whom I look forward to checking out. Typically, each author entry features a biography, a review/overview of key works and links to other sites, such as the affiliated Nordic Bookblog. There’s some information on film and TV adaptations too. 

It’s a veritable treasure trove if you’re new to Scandinavian crime and want to find out what all the fuss is about. Or, perhaps like me, you might have read many of the classics, and are keen to lay your hands on some lesser-known works. Either way, this site is a highly useful resource. Tack så mycket! 

Oh, and if you’re into Viking sagas, it’s also definitely the place for you. Apologies for the naffness that follows; unable to resist.

BBC4’s The Killing Series 1 – review of outstanding new crime drama from Denmark

I’ve just finished watching the first two episodes of the Danish crime drama The Killing on BBC4, and it’s so exceptional I felt I had to blog it straightaway.

Forbrydelson / The Killing is an outstanding, powerful, grown-up drama that seeks to show not just the criminal investigation of a murder, but the devastating effect that the crime has on the victim’s family and friends. Part police-procedural, part family drama, part political drama, it chronicles a 20-day police investigation in 20 episodes, allowing for events to unfold realistically from different points-of-view. It’s extremely moving, particularly in its depiction of parental grief, with outstanding acting all round: I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two (and as Mr. Peabody will tell you, this is a rare event indeed – I’m usually tough as old boots).

The police investigator in charge is Sarah Lund (played by the excellent Sofie Gråbøl), who is sucked into the case on what should be her last day before taking a new job in Sweden. What an absolute joy this character is: a confident, intelligent, nicotine-gum-chewing policewoman who is *extremely* good at her job. The camera often simply lingers on her looking / seeing / thinking things through / making links / understanding (a nod to the trope often present in hard-boiled crime fiction of the ‘power of the investigative eye’). The contrasts between Lund’s methods of investigation and those of her male co-investigator are highlighted throughout (sometimes to droll comedic effect): the implication is that the different policing styles are firmly gendered, and the ‘male’ style does not come off well at all. 

A small, but lovely detail is that Lund wears the same rather tatty-looking jumper throughout the first two days of the investigation (as seen above). Fashion statements are pretty much bottom of the to-do-list, which is extremely refreshing.

I haven’t seen a crime drama this powerful since watching the TV adaptation of David Peace’s Yorkshire Noir quartet – 1974 / 1977 / 1980 / 1983. I would highly recommend The Killing – it’s a significant cut above your average crime series, and was rightly lauded in Denmark where it first appeared in 2007. Fantastic Danish crime drama: who knew?

Well done (again) BBC4 – going great guns on international crime. Both episodes are available on iplayer: catch up while you have the chance and tune in next week for episode 3. I’ll definitely be there.

11 Feb: Rog has posted an audioclip of The Killing‘s theme tune (by Neptun) in the comments section below.

12 Feb: Tweet reviews

punkcinema1 – The Killing is brilliant TV. Best thing made by Denmark since Lego.

richvoorwerp – Imagine a 20 episode, complex, tightly scripted, beautifully acted, crime drama produced by British TV. The Danes can do it.

rosemarymaddy – Going to watch The Killing on BBC iplayer. If you haven’t seen it yet, and you like gritty, intelligent, crime drama, why not take a look?

If you’d like to leave a comment, please make sure there are no spoilers that might interfere with the enjoyment of others still catching up 🙂

BBC4 New Danish crime series – ‘The Killing’

News comes to me via the wondrous Euro Crime blog of a new Danish crime series, The Killing, that’s due to start on BBC4 this Saturday, 22 January (two episodes back to back at 9.00pm and 10.00pm).

  • 20 episodes – one for each of the 20 days of the case (a bit like 24, but days instead of hours, if you see what I mean)
  • Features a female head of investigations, Inspector Sarah Lund (big cheer!)
  • Police procedural (shades of Wallander, perhaps?)
  • Originally shown in 2007 on Danish TV, where it was a big hit.
  • Received a nomination for International Emmy for best Best Drama.

Sounds very promising.

Euro Crime carries the BBC4 press release here, which gives some details about the story-line (no major spoilers though).

[See also my review of the first two episodes in a later post – link on right hand menu]