BBC4 The Bridge – start date confirmed


With many thanks to Rhian for alerting me to the following:

The Swedish/Danish crime series The Bridge begins on Saturday 21 April at 9.00 pm. Two episodes will be aired that evening (totalling two hours). Further details are available via The Radio Times, which features Sofia Helin, one of the series’ stars, on its front cover this week.

A BBC4 press release describes the series thus: “The Bridge, a 10-part investigative crime drama, begins when the body of a woman is found in the middle of the Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark. A bi-national team is put together to solve the crime and the killer, always one step ahead of the police, becomes the object of a dramatic manhunt.”

The stars of The Bridge, Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia

Not only is The Bridge a Swedish/Danish co-production, it’s a bilingual one.

The original title (which appears on the cover of the DVD) is Bron/Broen, and dialogue is delivered in both languages, reflecting the operations of the bi-national investigative team. I’m not sure if this is a first, but I find the idea of a bilingual crime series quite fascinating (imagine, for example, a British/French series investigating a murder at the exact centre of the Channel Tunnel!). Do the Swedish and Danish investigators all understand/speak their opposite number’s language? Do they switch languages depending on the country they happen to be in? I won’t easily be able to tell, as the languages will only be fully comprehensible to me via subtitles, but perhaps someone can provide illumination!

I’ve heard many good things from those who’ve already watched the series and look forward to seeing it immensely.

Check out the wonderfully atmospheric title sequence with its time-lapse photography on YouTube. The title-track, ‘Hollow Talk’, is by the Danish group Choir of Young Believers.

Friday snippets: ‘Death of the remake?’ and ‘Once upon a Time in Anatolia’


An article by Charles Gant in today’s Guardian asks ‘Is the Hollywood remake dead?’. In it he explores why some English-language remakes (most notably of the Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) are not fairing as well as expected at the box office, and highlights the increased success of foreign-language films in recent years. Gant quotes Marianne Gray, a producer with Yellow Bird Films, who feels ‘everything is getting more global, and audiences are more accepting of subtitles’, but goes on to argue that there’s a bigger factor at play here as well. Put simply, ‘films are succeeding because of their foreignness, not in spite of it’; their unique selling point is authenticity, with audiences keen to sample ‘authentic originals’ rather than commercially-driven copies.

Good marketing tactics don’t hurt either, of course. The Norwegian adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters opens in cinemas this Good Friday, a release date that proved highly profitable for Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish film Let the Right One In back in 2009.

The article raises some other interesting questions, such as why English-language remakes are considered necessary in the first place, and is well worth a read.


Critics seem to be unanimous in their praise of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da): ‘a carefully controlled masterpiece’  (French / Observer); ‘completely gripping…an astonishing crime procedural’ (Quinn / Independent); ‘murder mysteries rarely run so deep’ (Calhoun / Time Out). It also won the Grand Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

The more I read about this film, the more I want to see it, and the more frustrated I become at its apparently limited distribution in the UK. I’d love to see it in on the big screen in the cinema, but may have to wait for the DVD *sigh*

Here, in any case, is a tantalising synopsis from the Cinema Guild film website:

‘In the dead of night, a group of men – among them a police commissioner, a prosecutor, a doctor and a murder suspect – drive through the Anatolian countryside, the serpentine roads and rolling hills lit only by the headlights of their cars. They are searching for a corpse, the victim of a brutal murder. The suspect, who claims he was drunk, can’t remember where he buried the body. As night wears on, details about the murder emerge and the investigators’ own secrets come to light. In the Anatolian steppes nothing is what it seems; and when the body is found, the real questions begin’.

Read Anthony Quinn’s 5 star review of the film in The Independent here (no major spoilers).

AT LAST! Start date of The Killing 2 confirmed by BBC

Mrs Peabody’s review of the opening episodes of The Killing 2 is now available here


After months of (mostly) patient waiting on our part, and a little bit of uncertainty, the start date of the second series of Forbrydelsen / The Killing has been confirmed.

Yes finally! Sarah and her jumpers are back on…

BBC4, SATURDAY 19. NOVEMBER 2011, 9.00-11.00pm

(not 12. Nov as previously reported)

This information comes via the BBC Media Centre.

It’s a 10 episode series and the first two episodes will be shown back to back (thanks to Peter for this info!), which probably means the whole series will be aired over 5 weeks. 

And here’s an excerpt from the BBC’s description of the series to set the scene: “It’s been two years since former detective Sarah Lund was divested of her investigative role and transferred to a low-key job in the country, but when the body of a female lawyer is found murdered in macabre and puzzling circumstances, Lund’s former boss at Copenhagen police HQ finds that he has no choice but to call her back in to assist with the investigation.” More here…

By the way, there’s a lovely interview with Sophie Grabol on Newsnight (31. October 2011), in which she discusses how Sarah Lund’s character challenges gender stereotypes.

BBC4 lines up a double helping of Swedes for 2012: Sebastian Bergman and The Bridge

While fruitlessly browsing BBC press releases for the start date of The Killing 2, I came across an interesting bit of news: two Swedish crime series (with Danish and German input) have been acquired by BBC4, and will air in 2012.

The press release describes them as follows:

The Bridge, a 10-part investigative crime drama, begins when the body of a woman is found in the middle of the Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark. A bi-national team is put together to solve the crime and the killer, always one step ahead of the police, becomes the object of a dramatic manhunt. The Bridge is a Danish/Swedish co-production.


Sebastian Bergman, a compelling new police thriller, stars Rolf Lassgård, one of Scandinavia’s most popular actors [the ‘first’ Wallander] in a powerful new role as profiler Sebastian Bergman.

Strong-headed, politically incorrect, abrasive and grief-stricken, Bergman has still not come to terms with the loss of his wife and daughter in the 2004 Thailand tsunami. In the first of the two thrillers, he helps police in his hometown solve the murder of a 15-year-old boy. In the second, he attempts to catch a serial killer who seems to be modeling his attacks on those of a jailed killer whom Bergman put behind bars himself.”

There’s a trailer available of Sebastian Bergman on ZDF Enterprises’ English-language website. It’s pretty dreadful (cheesy voiceover, gratuitous violence and pompous movie-trailer music).

I fervently hope that the programmes are better than the trailer suggests. I like Rolf Lassgård as an actor, and it would be a shame if he ended up in something sub-standard. The project has the same film-makers behind it as the Wallander film cycle, and expectations will be high.

UPDATE: The start date for Sebastian Bergman has now been confirmed in The Radio Times as Saturday 26 May 2012, 9pm.

My review of Episode 1 is now available here.

For the love of God, someone turn that music OFF!

Review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: British espionage thriller meets Swedish crime

I never thought I’d say this, but I was glad of some Welsh rain this afternoon, as it gave me and Mr. Peabody the perfect opportunity to go to the cinema. There, we treated ourselves to the 1970s espionage fest that is Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, adapted from the John le Carré classic of 1974.

The film has received rave reviews, including a rare 5 stars from The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, and I can understand why: this is film-making of the highest quality, which is beautifully acted and styled, and recreates a tense Cold War atmosphere to perfection.

Although the plot is fiendishly complex in places, with some mind-boggling twists and turns, the fundamentals of the story are always clear. There is a Soviet mole in the highest echelons of the British Secret Service, working for ‘Karla’, the enigmatic head of the KGB. It falls to George Smiley, a forcibly ‘retired’ senior intelligence officer, to flush the mole out. The spy has to be one of four people, all of whom Smiley has worked with for years, and so he is dealing not just with a political betrayal, but with a long-running personal betrayal as well.

The film allows Smiley’s investigation to unfold at a leisurely pace, as he tracks down the key players whose recollections will allow him to identify the mole. We are also shown Smiley’s own memories of past events (including a Christmas office party with Le Carré as an extra), which he is forced to view with new eyes – a painful process that reveals how one person’s betrayal has undermined all their supposed achievements down the years. Seeing things clearly is a dominant theme: early in the film, Smiley visits an optician’s and emerges with a new pair of glasses – the big, rectangular type worn by Alec Guinness’s Smiley in the 1970s TV adaptation. But this is much more than simple homage to the famous earlier series: the new glasses have a deeply symbolic function, showing how Smiley has sharpened his vision, in order to see the truth properly for the first time.

The acting is excellent throughout. Gary Oldman is a wonderfully controlled Smiley, whose close-ups reveal, through the minutest of facial movements, the tensions that lie beneath. There are also wonderful performances by John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Colin Firth and Kathy Burke (who has possibly the best line of the whole film). Hats off, as well, to the film’s cinematographers, stylists, and lighting crew, who evoke a gloomy 70s Britain so perfectly: there’s no James Bond glitz or glamour here, just a succession of dark, windowless secret-service offices and hideouts, in a 1970s palette made up almost exclusively of browns (from beige to fawn to mud and a thousand shades in-between). The humdrum office life of the secret service is beautifully depicted (Trebor Mint, anyone?) and in some ways the whole story can be read as just mundane office-room politics, with various divisional heads pitted against one another for supremacy over the years … albeit with more geo-political issues and human lives at stake than your average workplace.

So how does a review of this seemingly ultra-British film end up on a transnational crime blog? Well, the film was co-funded by France’s StudioCanal, and the director, Tomas Alfredson, is Swedish. Best known for his 2008 vampire film Let the Right One In, Alfredson has done a tremendous job of adapting le Carré’s depiction of the classic Cold War crimes of treachery and betrayal. And in its understated style and underlying melancholia, I see this film connecting back to Swedish crime writers such as Sjowall & Wahloo and Henning Mankell, whose investigative figures, like Smiley, plod their way in a dogged and melancholy fashion towards the truth.

In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the quintessential British espionage thriller meets the best of Swedish crime writing. It’s a winning combination and I can only hope that the other two novels in the Karla Trilogy will make it to the big screen via the same film-making team.

There’s also a lovely A-Z of TTSS from The Guardian available here.

Sisters in Crime Book Bloggers Challenge / Ingrid Noll

Over at Barbara Fister’s blog, you can find details of the Sisters in Crime Book Bloggers Challenge, which celebrates 25 years of Sisters in Crime and the wealth of quality crime fiction written by women. 

I’m embarking on the Easy challenge: write a blog post about a work of crime fiction by a woman author; list five more women authors who you recommend.

My choice is The Pharmacist (Die Apothekerin), by one of Germany’s most successful and respected crime novelists, Ingrid Noll.

Ingrid Noll is in now her seventies, and only started writing seriously in her mid-fifties, after her three children had left home. The delayed start to her career as an author -perhaps not too unusual for a woman of her generation – gives all of us late developers hope and is one of the reasons I’ve selected her for this challenge.

I’ve also chosen Noll because (as she herself says), her novels are predominantly concerned with the lives of ordinary women, and how they set about achieving their goals within the constraints of a patriarchal, bourgeois society … by fair means or foul. She’s the writer of darkly humorous and highly original crime novels, often compared to those of Patricia Highsmith, which offer an entertainingly twisted vision of female empowerment – part of the German subgenre known as the Täterinnenkrimi (female perpetrator crime novel). At the same time her depictions of relationships avoid gender stereotyping: both her male and female characters are complex and interestingly flawed, which allows you to sympathise with them and despair of them all at the same time.

Poster for the 1997 film adaptation of Die Apothekerin/The Pharmacist

The Pharmacist, first published in 1994, is narrated in the first person by Hella Moormann. She is the pharmacist of the title, currently a hospital patient, who during the dull evening hours relates her life-story to Rosemarie Hirte, a mousy woman who keeps falling asleep in the next-door bed. We hear how Hella’s penchant for shady characters and co-dependency leads her into a relationship with the younger, amoral Levin, and how before long, she is drawn into a series of dubious, not to mention criminal events. The big question is: just how passive is Hella? Is she a victim of her machiavellian boyfriend? Or is she actually much more in control of the situation than she would care to admit? And just how wise is she to tell her story to the seemingly innocent Frau Hirte, whose snores may not be all they seem?

Delicious stuff!

The Pharmacist, trans. from the German by Ian Mitchell (London: HarperCollins, 1999).

Five other women crime writers I would recommend:

Josephine Tay, author of The Daughter of Time – another ‘hospital mystery’ (UK)

Maj Sjowall, co-author of the Martin Beck series (Sweden)

Fred Vargas, author of the Adamsberg series (France)

Dominique Manotti, author of Affairs of State and a very different writer to Vargas (France)

P.D. James, the grand Dame of British crime writing (UK)

#11 Henning Mankell / The Troubled Man

Henning Mankell, The Troubled Man, translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson (London: Harvill Secker 2011 [2009]). Wallander’s final case, in which he faces his biggest challenge yet 5 stars

Opening sentence: The year Kurt Wallander celebrated his fifty-fifth birthday, he fulfilled a long-held dream.

While at the airport bookshop before going on holiday, I spotted Henning Mankell’s The Troubled Man, a novel I’ve been looking forward to reading for a good year. After a few moments I decided rather regretfully to resist, as I wasn’t sure the Very Last Wallander would make for a cheery holiday read. Later that day, while exploring the hotel, I came across the usual bookshelf of novels left by other holidaymakers. There, but of course, was another copy of The Troubled Man, at which point I gave in, put aside the carefully selected crime novels I’d brought with me and, armed with a hanky, started to read.

Before saying any more I should confess that I am a thoroughly biased reviewer when it comes to this Swedish writer and series. I have loved all the Wallander novels, and it would have taken a complete car-crash of a book for me to rate it anything other than five stars. So a five it is – and in some senses this is a rating for the entire series, which is referenced numerous times in various ways throughout the book.

Troubled Men

The first troubled man of the title is Hakan von Enke, a retired Swedish naval official and the father of Linda Wallander’s partner Hans, who disappears into thin air one day while out on his regular walk. Shortly before he vanishes, Hakan voices some concerns to Wallander about an unsettling naval incident that took place in 1982 involving a Russian submarine. Not long afterwards, Hakan’s wife Louise also disappears. To help a distraught Linda and Hans, Wallander begins an unofficial investigation, and uncovers an espionage story that reaches back into the complex history of the Cold War. This forms the central case within the novel, and is an absorbing and well-constructed read (albeit with the odd loose end that’s rather too casually tied up at the end). As ever, Mankell challenges us to question our assumptions, in this case about the dominant historical narrative of the Cold War years – there are a number of enjoyable and unexpected twists that force us to see key events in a whole new light.

The second troubled man, of course, is Kurt Wallander himself, whose personal and working life is overshadowed by a growing anxiety, in spite of the joy that becoming a grandfather brings. Now at the age of sixty, when most people start reflecting on their lives and the choices they have made, Wallander becomes a vehicle for Mankell to explore some very large themes: the value of family ties, the passing of time, the individual’s fear of losing his or her identity and, of course, death. There’s very much a feeling of closing the circle, with a number of references to Rydberg (Wallander’s mentor early in the series), Wallander’s late father (whose relationship with his son was often fraught), Baiba Leipa (his one-time love from The Dogs of Riga), and individuals from past cases (such as the husband of the victim in The White Lioness). For anyone who has travelled with Wallander down the long and winding road of this ten book series, it can’t help but be an absorbing, poignant and moving read.

One final word: if you’ve not yet read the earlier Wallander books, or if there are any in the series that you need to catch up on, I would strongly recommend doing so before embarking on The Troubled Man, which should be read at the end of the sequence as the author intends.

Mrs. Peabody awards The Troubled Man a slightly mournful, but deeply satisfying 5 stars.

Other Mankell/Wallander links you may enjoy

Henning Mankell’s official website

In the Footsteps of Wallander – a PDF guide to the locations featured in the books, films and TV series.

Scandinavian Crime Fiction – a blog that does what it says on the tin.

#10 Dominique Manotti / Affairs of State

Dominique Manotti, Affairs of State, translated from the French by Ros Schwarz and Amanda Hopkinson (London: EuroCrime 2009 [2001]). A breathtaking exposé of political power games and corruption in 1980s Paris  4 stars


Opening sentence: Outside, it’s sunny, summer’s round the corner, but the offices of the RGPP, the Paris police intelligence service, are dark and gloomy with their beige walls, grey lino, metallic furniture and tiny north-facing windows overlooking an interior courtyard.

In one way, Affairs of State is less a crime novel than a tale of power and corruption, in which murders are inevitable as the stakes for political survival rise. In another, though, this is a crime novel through and through, in the sense that it dissects a bewildering range of criminal behaviour and leaves the reader looking at the world of politics through somewhat jaundiced eyes.

The spider at the centre of the web is François Bornand, a special advisor to the French President, who is guilty of all manner of corruption and decadence in the mid-1980s: the sinking of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, lucrative arms deals with Iran, and a never-ending consumption of high-class call girls.

Bornand is the ultimate survivor, and when information about his illicit activities threatens to reach the press, he uses a maverick security unit based at the Elysée, the very heart of the French political establishment, to protect his empire. As the bodies pile up, the novel focuses less on the puzzle of who commits each crime (readers are privy to the identities of all the murderers), than on the investigative efforts of the police and intelligence service, who would like nothing more than to bring Bornand down. In the process, we are shown the fascinating journey of rookie policewoman Noria Ghozali, who starts out at the periphery of the investigation, but makes the crucial shift into intelligence work by the end of the novel. Like one of the murder victims, Ghozali is of Arab extraction, and her battle for acceptance within the police force and wider society allows Manotti to examine French attitudes to gender and race in an uncompromising and very effective way.

What’s particularly fascinating about the novel is how closely it dares to reference the reality of French politics in the 1980s. The original title of the novel is Nos fantastique années fric, or ‘our fantastic years of dosh’, and Manotti sets out to critique what she describes in her afterword as ‘this decade in which money came to represent, for an entire political class, an end and a value in itself’. Particular venom is reserved for the Socialists who came to power with Mitterrand and who ‘assumed and practiced their new religion with the zeal of neophytes’.  A professor of economic history in Paris, Manotti demonstrates an acute understanding of the corrupting influence of money in political life – and this is really the novel’s central theme. Bornand appears to be a composite of several politicians of the time, outwardly respectable but tainted by a Vichy past, and bears a particularly marked resemblance to one individual (as I learned from Véronique Desnain’s paper at the Belfast ‘States of Crime’ conference). Manotti sails remarkably close to the wind here, and I salute her bravery in doing so.

That having been said, there are elements of the narrative that are overly melodramatic, especially towards the end of the novel. But I suspect these are designed as symbolic indicators of corruption more than anything else – and they didn’t overly detract from the power of the narrative.

One lovely extra detail: it’s noted on the inside front cover that ‘this book is supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’!

 A film of the novel, entitled Une affaire d’État, was released in 2009.

Mrs. Peabody awards State of Affairs an intrigue-filled 4 stars.

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.



A bit of a treat: Belfast ‘States of Crime’ conference

Tomorrow I’m heading off to Belfast for a few days, and will pop my head round the door of the ‘States of Crime’ conference being held at Queen’s on Friday and Saturday. As its title suggests, the conference will be looking at representations of the state in crime fiction, and how it is shown negotiating issues such as criminality, policing, justice and civil rights. 

I’ve had a peek at the programme, and it’s stuffed with talks on international crime (Italian, French, German, Austrian, Swiss, Russian, Finnish, Swedish, African, Spanish, British, Irish, American). Heaven! 

The icing on the cake is a round table with David Peace and Eoin McNamee. Peace is a bit of a literary god in my eyes: I think his Red Riding Quartet is one of the best things ever written – irrespective of genre – and I’m really looking forward to seeing him in discussion at the No Alibis Bookstore on Friday evening.