BBC Radio 4’s ‘Foreign Bodies’ episode guide…with a bit of Mrs. Peabody in #2!

Mark Lawson’s ‘Foreign Bodies’ series kicked off yesterday with an exploration of two seminal detectives from Belgium –  Hercule Poirot and Jules Maigret. Val McDermid, Andrea Camilleri, P.D. James, Jakob Arjouni and Camilla Lackberg all joined Mark for a fascinating discussion about these two key investigative figures.

Today it was the turn of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Swiss detective Inspector Bärlach, featuring a contribution from your very own Mrs. P… Our discussion took in Dürrenmatt’s links to earlier Swiss crime writer Friedrich Glauser, Dürrenmatt’s exploration of the moral crisis facing Europe following the Holocaust, and his subversion of the detective genre to question the possibility of justice. The crime novels discussed included The Judge and his Hangman (Der Richter und sein Henker, 1950), Suspicion (Der Verdacht, 1951) and The Pledge (Das Verprechen, 1958).

Listings for the first 7 episodes are now up on the ‘Foreign Bodies’ website. They air Monday to Friday on Radio 4 at 13.45, and are then available online. For good measure, there’s an omnibus edition on Friday at 21.00.

Episode 1  Belgium: Hercule Poirot and Jules Maigret (Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon)

Episode 2  Switzerland / Germany: Inspector Bärlach (Friedrich Dürrenmatt)

Image for Inspector Barlach

Episode 3  Czechoslovakia: Lieutenant Boruvka (Josef Skvorecky)

Episode 4  The Netherlands: Commissaris Van Der Valk (Nicolas Freeling)

Episode 5  Sweden: Inspector Martin Beck (Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö)

Episode 6  UK: Commander Dalgliesh / Chief Inspector Wexford (P.D. James and Ruth Rendell)

Episode 7  Sicily: Inspector Rogas (Leonardo Sciascia)

You can also hear Bernard Hepton (who played Toby Esterhase in the BBC adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) begin his sublime Radio 4 reading of Dürrenmatt’s novella The Judge and his Hangman (available until 29 October).

Roseanna, the first of the Martin Beck dramatisations – will air on Radio 4 on Saturday 27 October at 14.30, but if you can’t wait, help yourself to this sneak preview.

Mrs. P’s review of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Pledge is available here.

UPDATE 28 October: Mark Lawson has written an overview article about the ‘Foreign Bodies’ series for The Guardian entitled ‘Crime’s Grand Tour: European Detective Fiction’.

26 thoughts on “BBC Radio 4’s ‘Foreign Bodies’ episode guide…with a bit of Mrs. Peabody in #2!

  1. Oh, Mrs. P., this is excellent! And I really do like your own contribution. Very thoughtful insights into an author whose work I ought to know better.

  2. Hi Mrs P. Discovered your blog via Mark Lawson’s “shout out in Ep. 2” and I will be back. Your readers might be interested to know that the Foreign Bodies series is available as a Podcast too see And there’s also going to be a series of dramas based on the 10 Martin Beck books starting Saturday at 14:30. I can’t wait for those. I love the books and have seen some of the the Swedish TV series (dubbed in German) in Germany (will it ever come to BBC4?). Also, did you see the collection of “Front Row” interviews of Euro Crime writers curated for the series?

    • Thanks for those links, Chris – yes, it really is a fantastic package of crime materials that Mark and the good people at Radio 4 have put together for us, and I’m *delighted* at the way in which international crime is being showcased by the series and the dramatisations. The surge in interest in Scandi crime, which I guess started with Larsson and the cult success of The Killing, has been wonderful for all European crime – fiction, TV and film – and this series is going to be great in terms of providing us with some extra information and context about detectives we already know and love, as well as others who are new to us.

      I’ve heard of the Swedish Beck series and agree that it would be wonderful to see this on BBC4. Perhaps there’ll be a handy gap in the schedule once series 3 of The Killing has aired?!

      • Yes, it would be great to see more Eurocrime on BBC4. There’s a long running German Sunday night series called Tartort that me and my wife (who’s Bavarian) watch we we get the chance. It can also be watched on catch-up over the Internet (which is not the case with iPlayer in Germany). Only downside is that Beck is only loosely based on the books and Is a bit less serious in tone than the usual BBC4 series like the Killing, Wallendar, Spiral and Inspector Montalbano, so might not fit. That said, I’d seen Martin Beck on the box before I discovered and read the books.

      • Ah, Tatort is one of my favourites – a venerable German institution! Might see if I can get hold of the Beck series via Germany (preferably un-dubbed). Intrigued to see what they are like now.

    • Thank you kindly, Sergio! I just listened to the Boruvka episode, which was fascinating. Very keen to read The Mournful Demeanour now. All sorts of undiscovered riches here…

  3. Well, I have listened to the five episodes that aired this past week, and enjoyed them, including Mrs. P.’s remarks. I got a kick out of the quintessential British statement when the host referred a few times to the “1939-1945” incident or situation. I can’t remember the exact noun but in no way would one know — if one flew in from outer space — that there was a world war, that countries were occupied, that tens of millions died. It actually made me laugh. Here I am, I can’t even read mysteries set during WWII if the horrors are outlined, but on the BBC, it’s a six-year situation (or whatever).
    I do like the series and will also hear the Martin Beck series as well.

    • Thanks, Kathy. Was the word Mark Lawson used ‘conflict’? There was closer reference to the Holocaust and the camps in the Duerrenmatt episode – his crime novel Suspicion shows Baerlach tracking a Swiss-Nazi doctor, who is guilty of dreadful crimes. It’s notable for tackling the subject of the Holocaust at a relatively early point, at the beginning of the 1950s.

      Lawson has written an article about the whole series in The Guardian, which might be of interest – hopefully you can access it from the States:

  4. Conflict might be it. But the British understatement just at that point just hit me, as I thought of German troops marching into many countries, occupying, pillaging, killing, etc., beyond anyone’s imagination, with 40 million dead. Anyway, it’s an interesting series, which I must catch up with to be current.

  5. On the last episode Andry Kurkov is a contributor, just listened to an Interview with him on Front Row, 8/11/12. Mark described his books as not so much crime novels, as novels with crimes in them! Didn’t know his books befor this, but will certainly look them up. Sounds if they are full of black humour. Recommend catch this on iPlayer.

    • Many thanks indeed, Brian. That’s an interesting distinction Mark Lawson makes, and I think I know what he means: there’s a whole spectrum of ‘crime’ fiction, from novels that make a clear use of crime genre conventions (like ‘the locked room’ mystery), to others that contain elements of crime, but could be also viewed quite broadly as works of fiction – and these are sometimes the most interesting texts of all. I will definitely have a listen.

  6. It turns out that interview is used in the last Foreign Bodies episode! As does the Jo Nesbo episode. Obviously it makes sense to use interviews from Front Row, a case of, you heard it here first!

    • Thanks, brianbird2012 – I haven’t listened to the final Foreign Bodies episode yet, but will catch up soon. I need to explore the crime author interviews on the Front Row website in a bit more detail as well. I know there are some cross-overs between those interviews and the series, but it would be interesting to hear the interviews in full.

  7. There’s also a series of films on Martin Beck made for Swedish TV as well as the tv series which I believe is based on the characters. I did manage to see one of these films at the Broadway cinema in Nottm, part of their Shots in the Dark film festival they ran for a few years in the summer, this would be 1998. Cannot remember the title or if it was based on one of the books. Thought it was a standalone film, but can’t find any details, so must be one of the TV films they started in 1997.

    In 2010 did manage to catch the only cinema film, again at the Broadway, part of their Nordic Noir series. Came out in 1976, Bo Widerberg, ‘ the man on the roof’, based on ‘the Abominable Man’. Well worth catching. Be great if BBC4 could show this, & whatever TV Films there are.

    • Thanks, brianbird2012. I haven’t seen any of these adaptations yet and agree that it would be great to see them on TV. There are all sorts of little gems that pop up – last week the adapatation of Jar City by Indridason was on BBC2 and was extremely good. It was a treat to hear some Icelandic as well.

  8. Any one got any views on the Martin Beck Murders? I felt after listening to Roseanne that something was missing. I believe it’s the way it’s been abridged, can’t say I’m very impressed. Which is a shame as it’s well cast, Neil Pearson as Kollberg is excellent. I see he is narrating the BBC Audio books of the series. Ralph Ineson who plays Larsson could also be seen playing the PM’s bodyguard in C4’s State Secret. Anyway it all came to head in The Fire engine episode. I found the link between Larssons comments about the missing fire engine & the search & finding the child’s missing toy bizarre! It just didn’t make sense. As for the ending, I kept expecting it to go beyond 15.30, I just found the ending really bizarre. Have to confess was tempted to read the last few pages of the book. Resisted that urge, & decided to read the book again, had just finished ‘Cop Killer’ for the third time, I think it is my favourite Martin Beck book. My problem with this series is the way it’s abridged, too much of the books are missing, that of course is the problem with books that are abridged, more so I think with crime novels. Yesterday was looking @ an audio book of Jo Nesbo’s Diamond Star 14 hours long! We get @ best 56 mins, if we are lucky! I listen through my HD Box so it plays it through my Tv, better speakers, so the time is displayed. So it starts 14.33/4 & finishes @ 15.29 with the credits. That clearly is not enough time, despite the excellent cast, to do justice to their writing.
    Yes I will keep listing & hope this brings more interest in their writings etc.

  9. Pingback: Mrs Peabody’s 2012 review | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

  10. Pingback: Criminally good summer treats | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

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