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…).

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

  1. If the rest of the series of River was as good as the first one last night, I won’t be complaining. I’m also glad Arne Dahl is returning, but I would really have liked to have seen a LOT more in the Beck series. I hope BBC4 doesn’t hang about too long before screening more of them. And, what’s happened to the last series of Kenneth Brannagh’s Wallander I wonder? BBC1 seems to have gone quiet. Have you heard anything yet on that one Mrs P?

    • I really enjoyed the Beck as well, Kathy (aside from the first episode, oddly), and would love to see more in future. Fingers crossed that River can keep up the very high standard of its opening episode.

      I haven’t heard anything about the KB’s Wallander. Will have a little nose around and see if I can find anything… Anyone else have any info?

  2. I loved River and thought Nicola Walker especially wonderful! Full of fun and energy – and that singing was just a delight. Such an interesting premise. Thanks so much for writing about it. Here in the US we can see it via the wonderful Tunnelbear.

    • Really glad you enjoyed, Nan and that you could get hold of it right away. Totally agree with you about Nicola Walker’s performance – and that opening sequence in particular. Perfection.

  3. I’m obviously not keeping a close enough eye on your blog. I’ve just posted this on my Facebook page…
    By chance I’ve just caught up with ‘River’ on BBC iPlayer.
    All the promotional stuff about the supernatural was guff. I nearly didn’t watch. It’s about mental health, racism, sexism, love, emotion. Truly stunning, deeply moving. A performance by Stellan Skarsgård – who’s he?, where did he appear from? – a performance that just knocks you over. Ostensibly a thriller with, to be frank, rather a trite denouement – who cares, that bit is brief; what a script by Abi Morgan. Who’s she? Where did she come from? (That’s just my ignorance of these things.) Thriller drama at its very best. Where will we be without the BBC? Catch it while you can; stick with it despite the challenging first episode. Only 6 days left for episode 1!

  4. Pingback: Jingle bells! Mrs Peabody’s 2015 Christmas recommendations | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

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